Downtown merchants sue neighbor over alleged chronic nuisance problems

Two downtown merchants have sued the owner of a nearby residential hotel, citing poor management and a long list of chronic nuisance issues that have been detrimental to their businesses, according to documents filed July 30 in Pierce County Superior Court.

Laura Hanan, who owns Brick and Mortar Gallery, and Kris Blondin, who owns Vin Grotto, allege defendant M & M Properties, Inc., owner of the low-income residential Olympus Hotel, located at 815 Pacific Avenue, has failed to adequately operate and manage its business. Both businesses owned by Hanan and Blondin are located in the historic Rowland Building, at 811 Pacific Avenue, which is next door to the Olympus Hotel.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs — which include Vin Grotto, Inc., and Sage, LLC, a company run by Hanan, and which owns the Rowland Building — allege that defendant M&M Olympus Hotel, LP has allowed the building and premises to be used in “a dangerous, destructive, unhygienic, noisy, and illegal manner.”

The plaintiffs also allege the defendant has failed to provide adequate security, repair, maintenance, and tenant management in compliance with local, state, and federal laws. In addition, Hanan and Blondin say “active drug dealers with outstanding criminal warrants” reside in the Olympus and “are trading in illegal drugs on the premises,” according to the suit. They also claim that since 2001, they have repeatedly notified the Olympus Hotel owners of this activity, but owners have not taken the steps necessary to remove these individuals or abate alleged illegal activity.

As a result, the two business owners have suffered “substantial business losses, out-of-pocket expenses, and loss of use and enjoyment.”

The plaintiffs cite three sections of the Revised Code of Washington, as they relate to nuisance, as the basis for their suit: RCW 7.48.010, which defines “actionable nuisance “as “an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to essentially interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of the life and property, is a nuisance and the subject of an action for damages and other and further relief”; RCW 7.48.120, which defines “nuisance” activity as “unlawfully doing an act, or omitting to perform a duty, which act or omission either annoys, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health or safety of others” and “in any way renders other persons insecure in life, or in the use of property”; and RCW 7.48.130, which defines “public nuisance” as “one which affects equally the rights of an entire community or neighborhood, although the extent of the damage may be unequal.”

Hanan purchased the 3-story, 98-year-old Rowland Building in 2002. She reportedly spent two years and $500,000 renovating the building, eventually placing it on the City of Tacoma’s register of historic places. Today, it houses Hanan’s art gallery, Brick and Mortar Gallery, Vin Grotto, and several residential condominiums. Over the past several years, she has been a vocal presence in downtown’s north end, photographing alleged criminal activity in the neighborhood, and forwarding the information to City Hall, Tacoma Police, and a variety of downtown business leaders.

Hanan and Blondin are represented by Seattle-based attorney Lafcadio Darling. M&M Olympus Hotel is represented by attorneys Philip R. Sloan and Timothy L. Ashcraft of Tacoma-based Williams, Kastner & Gibbs.

According to Pierce County Court records, the defendant has not responded to the plaintiff’s claim. A trial date has been set for Jan. 30, 2008.