State District Judge Raymond Ortiz ordered the Lamy Railroad & History Museum to let the Legal Tender restaurant resume operations there after a contentious three-hour hearing in a packed courtroom Thursday.
Brian Egolf, lawyer for John and Cindy Jednak of the nonprofit that ran the restaurant, said after the ruling that he was not sure when the restaurant could reopen, but that his clients were on their way to renew their beer and wine license.
“The restaurant’s coming back,” he said. “They’re going this afternoon to start the prep to get back in. They’re going to start the process right away. … This treasure for the community is coming back.”
After failing to reach an agreement with museum board members on a new concessionaire agreement, the Jednaks shut down the Legal Tender following a May 31 memorial service for a local resident.
Stevan Looney, who represents the museum board, indicated in court that he would appeal the judge’s ruling. Ortiz said he would give the parties time to work things out before setting further hearings in the case.
The judge denied Looney’s motion to dissolve a temporary restraining order issued against the museum on June 13 and award the museum damages, and instead agreed to let the temporary restraining order become a preliminary injunction.
Ortiz found that the Jednaks’ nonprofit, Learning Mind, was in good standing with the state, that it faced immediate harm if it were not allowed to resume operations and that all the requirements for the preliminary injunction had been met. He said the museum had failed to show that it had lost revenue due to the week-old temporary restraining order.
Four witnesses testified at Thursday’s hearing — John and Cindy Jednak for the plaintiff and museum board members Samuel Latkin and Marcus Kellerman for the defense.
The Jednaks said they took most of their own equipment from the Legal Tender after the May 31 memorial service, but they left behind glassware that they had purchased, as well as a leased dishwasher, ice machine and coffee equipment.
They repeatedly disputed Looney’s assertion that they had returned to the museum after May 31, that they had voluntarily left the premises or that they were primarily seeking a monetary settlement from the museum, rather than to reopen the restaurant.
John Jednak said he decided to close the restaurant at the end of May after his negotiations with the board broke down and the working environment became tense. He had been operating the Legal Tender since 2011 under an unwritten agreement that called for his nonprofit to pay the museum 15 percent of gross revenues. The board rejected his proposal to pay no more than $600 a week — a cap Ortiz ruled Thursday will now apply.
Things became emotional when Looney pressed Cindy Jednak over the Legal Tender’s finances, which she maintained her husband handled. “He’s a Taurus. He’s good with money,” she said. “I’m an Aquarian. I’m a people person.”
There was standing room only at Thursday’s hearing, with more than 35 people backing the Jednaks and the Legal Tender, some of them with bumper stickers that read, “Don’t surrender the Legal Tender.” About 15 people in attendance supported the museum board.
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.