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Bar is closed in city

Johnny M’s in Delavan involved in a lawsuit

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Aug 15, 2021

Johnny M’s in Delavan has been closed since June 1. Now there is a lawsuit filed by the owner against the city of Delavan and the mayor and several council members concerning the lease of the building.

An ongoing dispute between Johnny M’s Tavern, LLC, located in Delavan, and the city of Delavan has led to both entities taking legal action against each other.

Johnny M’s, which lists John Martin as the sole owner, leases the building it operates in from the city. The business has been closed since June 1.

At a March 1 Delavan City Council meeting, the council voted to terminate the lease with Johnny M’s with a 60-day notice. A second motion to revoke the liquor license of the establishment, if not paid by the 10th of each month, was also passed.

Since that meeting, Johnny M’s Tavern has filed a lawsuit in Faribault County District Court against the city of Delavan, and Christopher Kruse, Daniel C. Haugh and Kevin Walker each and individually and in their capacity with the city of Delavan. The filing date was Aug. 3.

Kruse and Haugh are City Council members and Walker is the mayor.

In the lawsuit, Johnny M’s Tavern (JMT) is said to have been in business in Delavan beginning in 2008 ,operating a restaurant and bar selling food, “on sale” and “off sale” liquor, and various gambling tickets, such as pull-tabs.

The lawsuit states from 2008 through early 2021 JMT has never been notified the operation of JMT was in violation of any law or ordinance, or that JMT was in breech of any term of the leases between JMT and the city of Delavan.

According to the lawsuit, the current lease was signed by both parties on Dec. 12, 2017, and runs for a five-year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2018 and ending on Dec. 31, 2022, unless terminated earlier “for cause,” upon 60 days notice.

JMT states in the lawsuit during the term of the lease and at all times relevant herein, JMT has paid the city $700 in monthly rent and $100 for its monthly liquor license fee.

A dispute over terms of the lease began in December of 2020, according to the lawsuit. JMT asserted the monthly rent owed under the lease was actually $400 per month; whereas the city contended that rent under the lease was $700 per month.

Furthermore, JMT claims it has overpaid the city by $1,200 and has asked the city to send a check in a timely manner as was required with the monthly rent payments.

The city, through its attorney, David Frundt, responded with a letter asserting that $700 is the correct rental rate and the $400 figure was simply a typo.

On Feb. 11, JMT sent a follow-up correspondence to the city and renewed its request for the city to reimburse JMT for the overpaid rent.

The lawsuit also alleges the city cited inaccurate and unproven allegations of violations allegedly committed by JMT, some dating back to 2015, as supporting cause for termination.

Delavan’s City Council held their regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 9. A portion of the meeting was held in closed session at which time the council consulted with their legal counsel concerning the lawsuit brought forth by JMT.

When the council came out of closed session, a letter from Walker, who was not present at the meeting, was read announcing his resignation effective Sept. 1.

When asked about the case, John Martin said, “My lawyer is handling the proceedings and I really cannot comment on it at this time.”