Cordish Co. named in 2 New York lawsuits

Baltimore firm manages bar cited in injury, fatality

November 25, 2006|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,sun reporter

The Cordish Co., a Baltimore-based development firm, is among the defendants in two lawsuits stemming from alleged underage drinking at an entertainment venue in Rochester, N.Y., that is managed by company representatives.

The lawsuits, filed in New York state court last month, come nearly a year after Cordish banned college-themed parties at Power Plant Live in Baltimore, which company representatives also manage.

In March, the Baltimore liquor board fined a Cordish representative $800 after it found that two bars at the downtown venue had allowed underage drinking.

FOR THE RECORD - Headlines accompanying an article in yesterday's editions of The Sun about lawsuits involving the Cordish Co. incorrectly described the management of a bar in Rochester, N.Y. The bar is managed by a limited liability company, and the liquor license is held by John Sullivan.
The Sun regrets the error.

One of the Rochester lawsuits was filed by the father of Matthew A. Watters, a 20-year-old who was killed in an automobile crash Nov. 11, 2004. According to the lawsuit and news accounts, Watters was a passenger in a car driven by a 19-year-old friend who became intoxicated at Tiki Bob's Cantina, which is located in an entertainment complex called the Centers at High Falls in Rochester.

High Falls is managed by Rochester Live, a limited liability company that includes Cordish employees, according to a Cordish spokesman.

The plaintiff in the other lawsuit, Thomas J. Bartell, alleges in court papers that he suffered "serious and permanent" injuries when he was kicked in the jaw Jan. 1 at Tiki Bob's.

The Rochester bar has been fined for underage drinking and disorderly conduct, among other violations, in recent years, according to a spokesman for the New York State Liquor Authority, and it is under investigation for incidents of underage drinking unrelated to the lawsuits.

Rochester officials, who signed a $2.4 million deal with the Cordish Co. in 2003 to manage the Centers at High Falls, are also concerned about allegations of underage drinking at Tiki Bob's, according to Charles Reaves, the city's commissioner of recreation and youth services.

Reaves said he and other city officials met with two Cordish representatives last week and asked them to come up with a plan to guard against future incidents.

"They get paid a substantial amount of money to manage the center, which means that they are to manage it," said Reaves. "We are extremely concerned."

Jake Miller, Cordish operations executive, said that the landlord of High Falls is Rochester Live, not the Cordish Co. However, he said that some Cordish employees are also "members" of Rochester Live's management team. He said that the Cordish Co. has no control over Tiki Bob's and that plaintiffs are "mistaken" if they think the firm bears any responsibility for what happens there.

"Any case brought against the company will be summarily dismissed," Miller said in an e-mail response to questions from The Sun.

The lawsuits name the Cordish Co. and a number of limited liability companies associated with the High Falls venue as defendants, but not Rochester Live.

Maryland state records show that Rochester Live's mailing address is the same as the Cordish Co. in Baltimore. State records list the registering agent as RC Ventures Inc., a company headed by Reed Cordish, the son of developer David S. Cordish, who runs the Cordish Co. A foreign limited liability company with the same name is also registered in New York state, public records show.

Limited liability companies offer tax advantages to members and protect them from personal liability when lawsuits arise. In the case of High Falls, they form a complex web around the management and operation of both the venue and Tiki Bob's.

The lawsuits claim that the Cordish Co. and a limited liability company called New Rochester 0051, which was incorporated in Maryland and has the same Baltimore mailing address as the development firm, were doing business as Tiki Bob's Cantina in Rochester. New Rochester 0051 is registered as a foreign limited liability company in New York state, according to public documents.

"At all times mentioned, defendants operated, controlled and managed a bar and restaurant known as Tiki Bob's Cantina," states the lawsuit filed by Bartell, whose jaw was fractured when he was attacked on New Year's Day. The lawsuit filed by Watters' father, the administrator of his estate, argues that the Cordish Co. "conducted business as Tiki Bob's Cantina."

The liquor license for Tiki Bob's is held by John Sullivan. He runs a bar management and development firm called East Coast Saloons, which is also named as a defendant in both lawsuits. The Cordish Web site promotes the licensing of "several leading national and international brands," including McFadden's, which is also one of Sullivan's bar brands. The Tiki Bob's in Rochester is located next to a McFadden's, and an opening in the wall allows patrons to pass back and forth.

Telephone calls to Sullivan's New York City office seeking comment were not returned.

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