Gilbert eatery’s closing sparks bitter legal battle | News

By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor
19 Min Read

Aaron Link has a food fight on his hand that he’s taking to the courts.

Link, the owner of Philadelphia Sandwich Company, is suing the now-closed Flying Basset Brewing in Gilbert owners and property management companies for breach of contract after he was locked out of his business, arrested and his equipment confiscated.

“I’m a business owner with a 2-year-old trying to take care of his family,” Link said. Instead “I get thrown in jail with all these hearsays.”

Robert Gagnon and Sara Cotton, who owned Flying Basset Brewing and property management companies Simplified Properties and 720 Ray LLC, did not respond to questions from Gilbert Sun News. Their attorneys for the most part denied the allegations in the lawsuit.

In February 2022, Link inked a sublease with Flying Basset Brewing at Ray and Cooper roads.

He said that he had spent six months of due diligence in searching for the right partner and found it in brewery, which opened in 2017. It was at the time reportedly the second craft brewery to debut in Gilbert.

Link anticipated a symbiotic partnership – Flying Basset had an empty kitchen and he had the food.

“Lots of breweries in the Valley don’t use food trucks or operate kitchens so they lose revenue by not able to capture an audience that way,” Link explained. “This was a win-win-win.

“It was an opportunity to share our costs with another business and get out of selling booze. We sold it only because we sold food. They focused on the beer and we focused on the food.”

Under the lease, Link was to pay the Flying Basset a monthly rent of $3,325.17 and half the utility costs, which included electricity, water, gas, trash, internet and grease-trap pumping.

In return, Link got full use of the kitchen and its equipment, the small wares and shared use of the dining room, patio and parking lot.

“That was our second location in 20 years,” Link said.

He explained that he was in his 20s when he opened Philadelphia Sandwich Company in 2007 with a full bar in Scottsdale’s Old Town but that after becoming a father, his wife wanted to move to a more family friendly area. So, they moved to Chandler near the Gilbert border.

Locked out from building

Link served authentic Philadelphia sandwiches made with fresh-baked bread out of the Gilbert location, garnering four-star reviews on Yelp.

But in early September 2023, Flying Basset Brewery announced on social media that it would shutter its operations and that the Philadelphia Sandwich Company would remain opened for to-go sales only beginning Oct. 1.

Link pointed out that Flying Basset still had eight years remaining on its master lease with 720 Ray LLC.

With Flying Basset leaving, Link tried to negotiate a new lease with 720 Ray but could not come to an agreement. Link said he balked when 720 Ray wanted a $5,000-a-month increase in rent and more of his assets added to the lease.

“I’ve been paying my bills for two years,” he recalled. “I made it clear I would not budge on paying more rent or adding additional guarantors to the lease.”

Link said that he was initially locked out of the establishment for two hours on Oct. 2 by Cotton, who called him asking for that month’s rent.

Rent wasn’t due until Oct. 5, but Link gave her the check early, which was endorsed by Cotton and cashed on Oct. 3. Link produced a copy of the cashed check.

Up to this point, Link said he had been dealing directly with Josh Archuleta, the Flying Basset’ brewer, and Maria Archuleta, who was the office and taproom manager.

He had never met Cotton, a traveling nurse, or Gagnon, a commercial airline pilot. The brewery closed because the Archuletas resigned, according to Link.

Gagnon and Cotton then sent Link a bill for the utilities that was to be paid by Link no later than the 15th of each month, the lease said.

“I didn’t know them,” Link said. “I could see that they were not aware of what was going on. I asked (Cotton) for all the receipts.”

In the sublease, Flying Basset was to pay for the utilities up front and then bill Link with copies of all relevant invoices.

Instead of sending him the utility invoices, “their reply was locking me out on Oct. 31,” Link said.

Break-in and arrest

Link said that on Oct. 31, he got a call from a vendor with $2,000 worth of perishable groceries who was trying to access the building.

He said that when he arrived, he found the back door had been screwed shut and that “multiple screws were sticking out of the door around the lock cylinder.”

Link then went through the front door, using his key. He said he punched in his security code for the building alarm, which didn’t work, and that he tried calling Gilbert Police.

According to the police report, officers were notified by Cotton that she viewed Link entering the premise via a security camera.

She told police that Link was inside her business after being evicted that morning. She said that “Aaron was behind in rent and other payments” and that she had reached out to him via email multiple times.

She also claimed that 10 days prior, she sent Link a notice to settle his debts or he would be locked out of the building. She sent another notice five days later, according to the report.

Police indicated that four paper postings advising Link he was banned from the building were found crumpled up inside a trash can near the back door.

Link identified himself to officers and showed them a copy of his lease. When asked by police how he accessed the building, he responded with his key and did not mention that he removed the chain.

According to the report, Cotton texted “copies of all emails, notices, and video of how the door was locked with a chain,” to police as they spoke with Link.

Cotton also told police that Link took items from the kitchen and the register area.

Police said the video showed Link arriving at the location, getting out of his vehicle with bolt cutters and returning later to his vehicle with the cutters and a chain.

Police found in Link’s vehicle a box with “cash register items, candles, the metal chain, the lock, clear tubs used in the kitchen, bolt cutters and mail with Aaron’s full name on them and a yellow-and-red water cooler.”

The items, except for the bolt cutters, were returned to Cotton, police said.

Police arrested Link on suspicion of third-degree burglary.

The “stolen” items, according to police, included the metal chain valued at $10, a metal lock valued at $75; cooking tubs, $100; clear buckets, $60, 40 warmer candles for food; $200 and a water cooler, $30.

Link also was arrested for allegedly possessing burglary tools – the bolt cutters.

Link said that he received the one lock-out notice on Oct. 31 and no other notices at any time.

According to the notice, Link owed $2,796 to Flying Basset for September utilities and that the invoices were hand delivered on Sept. 28 and on Oct. 21 to Link’s manager and emails were sent to the Sandwich Company’s email on Oct. 25.

The first invoice for October utilities was hand-delivered Oct. 21 to the manager. Link claimed that the manager never received any of the notices.

“Flying Basset Brewing has the option to reinstate your lease, but will not exercise this option,” the notice read. “Flying Basset Brewing has the option of securing a lien upon as much personal property of yours, located on the premises and not exempted by law, as is necessary to secure the payment of the debt.”

It added that if Link did not pay the debt with a cashier’s check within 20 days of the property seizure, Flying Basset may sell it. He was also advised not to remove any property as it would be considered an “illegal trespass.”

Link said that he received the email of the lock-out notice at 5:30 a.m. Oct. 31 and maintained that “it was not proper service and unlawful.”

Saving his delivery

Link said that when the vendor called, his immediate thought was to get to his business.

“The majority of supplies delivered were for an on-site catering job that day,” he said. “The cooler and Sternos were the last pieces I needed for the pack-out for the event.

“I had entered the property and grabbed the last few items I needed for the job that day. The job was my focus at the time. It was my intention to deal with the bogus notice after my event.”

He said that all the items he took belonged to him.

“The water cooler and the Sternos belonged to the restaurant,” Link said, indicated that Cotton didn’t produce any receipts that the items belonged to Flying Basset.

Link’s lawsuit claims he overpaid on rent for 10 months totaling $3,589 and that he paid $1,000 to fix an ice machine belonging to Flying Basset and was not reimbursed for that cost.

It also alleges the defendants seized equipment worth over $100,000, which included an ice cream machine and a holding cabinet to keep food warm.

“I had enough equipment for two restaurants in that space,” said Link, who had delivery and take-out only at ghost kitchens in Phoenix and Tempe.

Although Flying Bassett’s kitchen came with appliances, Link claimed that the owners were “slowly selling off stuff, which is a violation of the lease because I have exclusive use of the equipment there.”

Link said he was playing around with different scenarios to stay in business at the location and brought his former bar equipment to the site.

“I moved a bunch of my equipment from the bar side of things because I was prepared to take over the front of the house,” he said.

He said he brought in a $15,000 sound system, flat screen TV and 12 bar stools valued at $4,092, according to a receipt.

Link claimed that when he arrived at the brewery and saw the chain at the front door and the screws in the backdoor, he thought he was vandalized. He said he had fired a manager recently and thought it might be payback.

“I thought someone was being funny,” he recalled. “I didn’t know what was wrong.”

He claimed not to have seen the notices on the door and that the chain on the door belonged to him that he used to lock up a smoker.

“I was detained for two hours before I was arrested,” he said. “The lock-out notices don’t exist.”

He asserted that Flying Basset wanted him out of the way because he would not budge on his sublease in order to facilitate a deal with The Perch Brewery to take over the space.

According to Link, when he was released from jail and his cell phone returned, he received a text message from the owner of The Perch that she had entered into a new lease from the 720 Ray LLC and a deal had been made.

He accused Cotton of lying to police about being evicted because he was late on his rent in order “to have me arrested.”

According to the more detailed amended lease, if Link defaulted on his rent and failed to remedy it, Flying Basset can cancel the sublease, take back the premises and recover the rent due.

He pointed out he was never late on his rent and slammed Gilbert Police for taking Cotton at her word.

“One nice thing the City of Gilbert did was let me sit on the phone in jail for an hour on speakerphone while my kid was out trick-or-treating. It was my son’s first Halloween. I missed it. Thank God he is young enough that he doesn’t remember (the arrest).”

Link was released from jail 26 hours later.

According to the suit, Cotton’s lock-out notice was “in violation of the sublease agreement” and that Link had not breached it, nor was given a 10-day notice as required by the lease.

The suit states that Link’s sublease was subject to the May 2017 master lease agreement between Flying Basset and 720 Ray and that they breached that by “failing to provide the required notice of default prior to repossessing the premises and wrongfully terminating the sublease.”

Link is seeking a return of his property and an injunction to prevent the defendants from disposing or selling his equipment.

The attorneys for 720 Ray and Simplified Properties in their response to the suit denied wrongdoing and asked the court to dismiss the claims and award attorney fees.

The attorney for Flying Bassett Brewing’s owners denied wrongdoing and asserts that Link “knew he has not paid what was owed and that he knowingly refused to pay after multiple notices.”

With his October arrest, Link said he has been unable to find gainful employment with the criminal charges hanging over his head.

He said he’s lost clients, which included a medical marijuana dispensary, which were alerted about his arrest and revoked his security clearance.

“All the major contracts quit,” he said. “They don’t want someone who has burglary charges to be able to enter their properties.”

He said the arrest shows up during background checks and that he applied unsuccessfully for about 60 jobs for two months. Now he’s found work doing odd part-time jobs in kitchens.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office last Wednesday dropped charges against Link, who still plans to move forward on his lawsuit.

“I’ve been selling all my possessions, pawned my wife’s wedding ring,” Link said. “We’re just selling everything we can to be able to fight this.”

He said that for Cotton and Gagnon, the brewery was their side hobby but for him, his business was more than that.

“They didn’t just take my job,” he said. “I am 40 years old. Since I was 13 I’ve been working in the kitchen. This was not a hobby. I wasn’t doing this on the side for a tax break. It is who I am and they took it away from me.”

Link is seeking donors on to pay for his legal expenses.

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By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor , – Vivrr Local Results in news of type article , 2024-03-31 07:00:00
Tags: aaron link, flying basset brewing lawsuit, robert gagnon and sara cotton, gilbert restaurant legal battle, gilbert top news, gilbert hot news

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