Legal battle brewing over Panda

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A legal battle appears to be brewing out at the Ohio Valley Mall as attorney Christopher J. Gagin has filed a notice of a breached lease with the Ohio Valley Mall Company on behalf of Osaka Japanese Steakhouse.

Gagin is representing Zhao Xu Wang and Juan Feng Lin of Osaka, who have taken issue with the mall’s recent announcement of the Panda restaurant that is planned to be housed in the former Quizno’s on Mall Ring Rd.

“There is a handwritten provision in (Osaka’s) lease that reads ‘cannot have any other Chinese or Japanese Restaurant developed in the Mall area,”’ Gagin said.

According to Gagin’s letter to the Ohio Valley Mall Company, this handwritten restrictive covenant supersedes and negates a remedy limitation built into the lease that stipulates should a similar business be housed near the restaurant that Osaka would receive a 25 percent discount on its lease for 12 months.

Joe Bell, the director of corporate communications with the Cafaro Company, declined to make an official comment.

His company had just received word of the order Friday afternoon and hadn’t had a chance to properly research the issue at hand.

He did note a statement will be made later once the company has had a chance to review the order more in-depth.

Gagin noted the main issue will be the definition of “mall area” that is outlined in the handwritten provision.

The former Quizno’s is located outside of the main structure of the mall on Mall Ring Rd. and is not physically a part of the mall itself.

However, Gagin pointed to mall gift cards which were sold inside the mall that were redeemable at locations both inside the facility and at participating businesses on the perimeter

It the notice, it is also stated that the prior leaseholders of the location Osaka is housed in took exception to a planned Chinese restaurant that was to be housed in the site of the former Bonanza restaurant.

That issue resulted in the immediate abandonment of negotiations between the OVMC and the potential Chinese restaurant at that location.

In the mall’s press release detailing the coming of Panda, along with The Children’s Place, Panda was described as offering a “fusion” of Asian cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese and other Pacific rim cultures.

But the coming soon sign draped on the former Quizno’s states that Chinese food will be featured prominently at Panda.

Gagin said Osaka wouldn’t have issue if the offerings were other types of Asian cuisine, just not Chinese and Japanese.

“This is part of the mismanagement of that mall and why it has been struggling,” Gagin said. “They have to take care of their own tennants before they can attract new companies.”

Hughes may be reached at