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Biaggi's sues Gateway over 'Italian' competitor

Published March 29, 2013 12:40 pm

Food • Eatery claims mall's owners violated lease by renting to rival La Jolla Groves.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Biaggi's restaurant in The Gateway wants to be the only full-service Italian restaurant at the mall.

The Bloomington, Ill.-based chain has sued its landlord at the Salt Lake City retail center, claiming the mall's owner has let in a competitor, La Jolla Groves, that Biaggi's contends offers diners similar fare.

In a lawsuit filed two weeks ago in Utah's Third District Court, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano said that when it signed up to lease space at The Gateway in 2003, the agreement guaranteed its exclusive right as the sole Italian restaurant allowed in the shopping center.

Biaggi's, whose Salt Lake location is on the northwest corner of 200 South and 400 West, claims that property operator and owner Inland Western Salt Lake City Gateway has violated that pact by renting to Utah-based La Jolla Groves, which opened at The Gateway in November 2012 — immediately adjacent to the Biaggi's locale.

Biaggi's, which rents its space for nearly $242,000 a year, contends that by permitting La Jolla Groves to open, Inland has irreparably harmed Biaggi's goodwill and significantly interfered with its sales, revenues and profits.

The menu at La Jolla Groves `"makes it clear'' it is another Italian-themed eatery, the Biaggi's suit claims.

Quoting extensively from the La Jolla Groves web site, the suit notes that its list of dishes features "`traditional Italian cuisine such as tomato and fresh mozzarella caprese, grilled summer tomato bruschetta, chicken marsala, herb polenta, fusilli, ravioli, tortellini, and ltalian sodas, among others.''

The Biaggi's lawsuit is asking the court to declare that Inland is in breach of the lease, allowing the restaurant to terminate the agreement without entitling Inland to any damages as a result.

In addition, Biaggi's is asking for a minimum of $300,000 in damages, with the exact amount to be proven at trial.

Scott Bennett, general manager of The Gateway, said Friday he was unable to comment on the lawsuit since "all leases are confidential."

The Biaggi's chain operates 24 restaurants across 12 states, mostly in the Midwest.

La Jolla Groves runs an eatery in Provo, in addition to the Salt Lake location.