After long-running lawsuit, La Bergerie isn’t moving forward with relocation

3338
Del Ray Cafe owners Laurent and Margaret Janowsky had been working to reopen La Bergerie at 329 N. Washington St. for more than three years. They announced June 18 they can no longer move forward with the relocation. (File photo)
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

After a nearly four-year-long lawsuit, the owners of La Bergerie announced in a news release Monday that they no longer have the financial resources needed to move forward with their relocation to 329 N. Washington St.

Laurent and Margaret Ticer Janowsky, who also own the Del Ray Cafe, have been fighting to reopen La Bergerie as a fine dining restaurant and five-room inn at the new location for years. It had been located at Crilley Warehouse for four decades. 

The Janowskys put in a contract to purchase 329 N. Washington St. in July 2014, with the intentions of relocating their restaurant there. The planning commission and city council approved the proposed business unanimously in fall of that year.

Following the approval, 23 city residents filed a lawsuit against the city for the action in November 2014. Law firm Williams & Connolly represented the lawsuit. The firm’s senior counsel, John Kester, before the lawsuit was filed, demanded city council recuse itself from voting on the project because of its relationship with Margaret Ticer Janowsky’s mother, Patsy Ticer, who was mayor of Alexandria and a state senator.

The Janowskys were forced to close La Bergerie’s existing location at Crilley Warehouse on Dec. 24, 2016, as their lease had expired while the lawsuit remained ongoing.

The City of Alexandria won the lawsuit in circuit court and Virginia’s Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the decision two times. Still, the years that it took to resolve the lawsuit proved to be financially troublesome for the Janowskys, according to the news release. The restaurateurs said they had lost a personal investment of $400,000 and lost investors who decided to invest elsewhere due to the ongoing legal proceedings.

In a news release, the Janowskys expressed disappointment at not being able to reopen their restaurant in the new location.

“We find it extremely unsettling that a few residents can destroy a reputable 40-year-old local business just by filing a lawsuit, which we believe they had no expectation of winning,” Margaret Ticer Janowsky said in the statement. “We believe it was their intent all along to do just what has happened, make us spend so much money in the lawsuit and drag it out over so many years that we, in effect, have been bankrupted by it. It’s a very sad day for local, small businesses in Old Town, Alexandria.” 

Correction: The print version of this article stated the Janowskys signed a lease at 329 N. Washington St. In reality, the Janowskys had a contract to purchase the property. The Times apologizes for the error. 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

4 COMMENTS

  1. Seems to me there’s more to this story — for example, the market forces that are driving out many of the restaurants in Old Town. Encourage the Alexandria Times to do more than just report the press release, at least if there’s a scathing editorial being drafted.

  2. Mrs. Jankowsky’s last comment – that a nuisance suit was all it took to torpedo the business -is spot on. There should be a law that if those who file such suits lose, they pay the full legal costs of those who were sued. In this instance, the harrassment had a significant negative consequence on a small business, while the harrassers essentially walked away harm free.

  3. La Bergerie was a great Old Town asset. The Jankowskys’ business plan seems not to have taken into account what their prospective new neighbors wanted or didn’t want. To call what those prospective neighbors did to try to protect themselves a “nuisance” is annoying and wrong. Now the whole effort to create an unwelcome new type of restaurant with a five-room “inn” has crashed utterly. (Maybe they should have stayed where they were in the first place and simply renewed their lease and learned how to lower their prices, particularly for wines.) That is, in the end it was all a waste of time, money, and good will. And beloved La Bergerie is gone seemingly forever. Sad tale.