Judge orders Winghart’s out of Westmoreland Mall for failing to pay back rent | TribLIVE.com

Judge orders Winghart’s out of Westmoreland Mall for failing to pay back rent

Joe Napsha

Winghart’s Burger Beer & Whiskey Bar must “immediately vacate” its space behind Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield because it owes the mall about $91,150 in rent and costs dating back two years, a Westmoreland County judge ruled.

Judge Chris Scherer last week granted mall owner CBL/Westmore­land L.P. the right to take back Winghart’s space at Westmoreland Crossing. Scherer said he will retain jurisdiction to determine any costs associated with the restaurant remaining in the 3,200-square-foot space, as well as any counterclaims by Winghart’s.

Robert S. Richman, attorney representing Winghart’s, declined to comment on the ruling. Winghart’s has leased the space since October 2011.

Scherer rejected Winghart’s argument it was justified in withholding the rent because CBL breached its lease by failing to maintain and advertise the premises, despite Winghart’s paying a “common areas and operating costs” fee. The failure to maintain and advertise caused “a substantial decline in occupancy of the shopping center and adjacent mall, as well as a substantial decline in individuals visiting the mall,” Winghart’s stated in filings in August.

Since CBL filed the lawsuit in October 2017, the mall has lost two anchor stores, Bon-Ton and Sears, as well as numerous small retail businesses.

CBL/Westmoreland responded it did not know whether Winghart’s lost business in previous years, but if it did, it cannot determine it was the mall’s fault.

Stacey Keating, CBL/Westmoreland spokesman, and Michael Egan, mall general manager, could not be reached for comment.

Prasad Margabandhu, a principal in Bandhu Brothers Inc., owner of Winghart’s, said in an email he believed the matter had been settled at a Feb. 25 hearing before Scherer.

Margabandhu did not comment on whether he will appeal Scherer’s ruling or the restaurant will close. It was open Tuesday.

Partners Margabandhu and Sivram Bandhu have battled in court with CBL at its Monroeville Mall property. CBL filed a lawsuit in Allegheny County Court in August 2015 against Winghart’s Burger and Whiskey Bar, claiming it was owed $1.1 million in back rent and damages. That restaurant was closed by the time the suit was filed.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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