Relations between a West End wine and cheese seller and her grocer landlord have turned frosty.
Katherine Haydon and her company Cellar to Table this month sued David Whitby, owner of meat and seafood market Yellow Umbrella Provisions on Patterson Avenue. The suit alleges Whitby has created an inhospitable work environment and has been trying to push her out of the space they’ve shared for more than a year.
Haydon and Cellar to Table claim the business has been harmed by Whitby’s allegedly “abusive, demoralizing, and intimidating” behavior and that his acts were a breach of their lease. Haydon also is claiming that Whitby may have misrepresented himself as the owner of the Yellow Umbrella space.
A city record lists Under the Umbrella LLC as the owner of the property at 5603 Patterson Ave. The mailing address for that entity is Whitby’s Tarrytown Drive home in Henrico County. Whitby would not comment on the lawsuit.
The suit, filed in Richmond Circuit Court on March 10, claims breach of contract, constructive eviction and fraud and seeks total damages of $850,000.
The business relationship began in 2012, when Whitby and Haydon crafted a plan for Cellar to Table to sell wine and cheese out of part of Whitby’s meat and seafood market at 5603 Patterson Ave.
Haydon and Cellar to Table took on a lease for 800 square feet on one side of Whitby’s shop. But the relationship eventually cooled, according to the suit.
One of the tipping points of the dispute, the lawsuit claims, was in February when Haydon found the power cut off from one of the Cellar to Table cheese cold cases. The suit claims the rest of the market still had electricity.
The suit alleges Whitby caused the case’s power outage and then told Haydon the Department of Agriculture would be arriving that day to inspect the premises.
According to the suit, Whitby’s behavior may stem in part from his desire to get Haydon off the premises and to obtain a Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control license to sell wine on his own.
ABC only allows one license per address. Haydon holds the license that corresponds with 5603 Patterson Ave., according to the suit.
The suit also claims Whitby yelled at Haydon, customers, vendors and employees.
During one outburst, according to the suit, Whitby yelled at Haydon, “‘Don’t forget: this is my house; not yours! It won’t be long before you’ll be leaving here! You better get a contingency plan ready!’” Whitby is alleged to have made the comment the day before the power went out on Haydon’s cheeses.
The suit asks for a judgment to clarify the validity of Cellar to Table’s lease. Should a judge deem the lease invalid, the suit asks that all money paid by Haydon to Whitby under the lease be returned, and that Haydon be allowed to remove her property from Yellow Umbrella.
Both Haydon and Whitby were present at the Yellow Umbrella shop on Tuesday, where Cellar to Table was still operating. Haydon also declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Attorneys James B. Thorsen and Robert J. Allen of Marchant Thorsen Honey Baldwin & Meyer are representing Haydon in the case. Messages left for Thorsen and Allen were not returned by press time.
Update: A previous version of this story said a records search for Under the Umbrella LLC, which owns the Yellow Umbrella storefront, led back only to a registered agent law firm. City of Richmond records for that entity list its mailing address at David Whitby’s home.