The legal battle that left several local doughnut shops in the dark has ended, but the ordeal has yet to reach a sweet ending for the stores.
At least four Dunkin’ Donuts locations across Richmond remain closed this week despite a settlement this month that closed the book on an eight-month lawsuit between the famous doughnut brand and the owners of 10 of its Central Virginia franchises.
The shuttered stores include the Dunkin Donuts at 9225 Atlee Road in Mechanicsville, 4417 W. Hundred Road in Chester, 11556 Busy St. just off Midlothian Turnpike, and a combination Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins store at 11 S. Nansemond St. in Carytown.
They closed Sept. 1 as the Dunkin’ corporate operation and the LLC owners of the shops tried to find common ground related to alleged unpaid lease and franchise fees.
With a trial approaching, the two sides were sent to mediation. A settlement was reached in late September, the terms of which are confidential. The lawsuit was finally dismissed in Richmond federal court Oct. 18.
Neither side would comment as to how the settlement affects the closed shops or when they might reopen.
Michelle King, director of Global Public Relations for Massachusetts-based Dunkin Brands, said in an email that the company hopes to reopen some of the stores. She would not provide details regarding timing and did not respond to questions as to who controls the locations in question following the settlement.
Attorneys for the franchise owners, including Jeff Gilmore and Pavan Khoobchandani of the Akerman law firm in Washington, did not return calls seeking comment.
Sandy Tucker of Williams Mullen is representing Dunkin’ in the case. He referred all questions to Dunkin corporate.
The dispute began in February, when Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins sued the LLC owners of seven of the brands’ franchises in the Richmond area and three in Fredericksburg. The Massachusetts-based doughnut and ice cream company claimed trademark infringement after the individual stores fell behind on lease payments for the storefronts and franchise fees that gave them the right to wave the flag of the well-known brands.
The storeowner LLCs are all tied to CDG Virginia, which was also sued in the case. CDG bought into the Dunkin/Baskin-Robbins system to control and open stores in certain parts of the of the Central Virginia territory.
The storeowners didn’t go down without a fight. They argued that the case should be tossed out and filed a counterclaim, alleging breached agreements and a breach of good faith.
Three other local Dunkin’ stores were shut down voluntarily in March as a result of the dispute. Those include Dunkin’ shops at 5400 Jefferson Davis Ave., 15740 Woods Edge Road in Colonial Heights, and 3990 E. Williamsburg Road in Sandston.
There are at least four other area Dunkin locations that had no ties to the lawsuit and remain open for business. They include the Short Pump store at 4050 Spring Oak Dr., 7300 Staples Mill Road, 5113 Oaklawn Blvd. in Hopewell and 13847 Hull Street Road in Midlothian.