Owners of da Francesco's File Suit Against 251 Sunrise

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Not all is well on the sleepy Island of Palm Beach. Owners of the new organic Italian restaurant da Francesco's have filed suit against the restaurant's landlords, 251 Partners.

The complaint was officially submitted to the Palm Beach County Clerk of the Court on September 11, following a strange turn of events at the restaurant that led to the property lessees seizing the restaurant's assets and employees and continuing to operate it under a different name.

Read the full complaint after the jump.

Click here to view the full complaint.

Two weeks ago, the Palm Beach Post's Jose Lambiet broke the story that the owners of da Francisco -- a group led by West Palm restaurateur Frank Cilione -- had been excised from their restaurant by the current lesees of the space, 251 Partners. Cilione's group had been subleasing the space, which 251 Partners had intended to run as a nightclub.

The catch was the town of Palm Beach has strict rules against operating nightclubs on the island. To skirt the law, 251 Partners struck the deal with da Francisco, which would allow the restaurant to run in the space until 10 p.m. and the nightclub to take over thereafter.

But there were two problems with the plan: One, Palm Beach saw through the ruse and warned 251 Partners that operating two businesses from the same address was against the law. The other: 251 Partners did not have the legal right to sublease the space to another firm.

To get rid of their problem, 251 Partners staged a coup. On September 3, they changed the locks on the building and refused entry to the owners of da Francesco's. A trespass warrant was also filed and Palm Beach Police were called to inform Cilione's people that they could not enter the restaurant.

The staff of da Francesco's was allowed to enter, however. They've since been retained by 251 Partners, who have also commandeered everything inside the restaurant, from the tables and chairs to kitchen supplies, food, wine, and even the registers. The name has been changed to the "Restaurant at 251," but the menu and concept remain the same. Even the head chef, Seth Kirschbaum, formerly of Sublime in Fort Lauderdale, is working for the "new" ownership. The restaurant continues to operate nightly.

Meanwhile, Cilione's group retained West Palm attorney Kenneth Curtin to represent them against 251 Partners, who they claim illegally stole their restaurant.

The complaint alledges that 251 Partners had no legal right to reposses property within their contract, especially since 251 gave no written notice and da Francesco had been in full compliance of the contract. Further, they claim da Francesco's ownership had never been informed that 251 Partners had no legal right to sublease the property.

The group is seeking an immediate injunction to stop 251 from operating the restaurant as well as damages. A hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday.

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