THC files S.F. Superior Court Case on behalf of neighbors, with a local liquor store and its owners as defendants. The liquor store “Maryland Market” is said to be a plight to the neighborhood as it allows illegal activity that hurts the neighborhood.
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Aggressive Tactics in Liquor Store Litigation
It’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and it’s business as usual at the corner of Turk and . Leavenworth, just a couple of blocks down the street from the federal building. In front of the Maryland Market a woman holds in her open palm five little white rocks wrapped in cellophane. “Twenty dollars,” she tells a desperate customer clutching a $10 bill.
The drug trade is brisk in the heart of the Tenderloin.
And according to a suit filed by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, the proprietor of the Maryland Market and the market’s landlord are as much to blame for the illicit activity as the dealers themselves.
While similar suits have been filed against liquor stores, crack houses and other drug dens throughout the state in recent years. Adopt-a-Block Inc. !! Vlazakis, 978243, stands out because of the unusually aggressive nature of the litigation. The suit does not claim that any of the defendants are engaged in criminal conduct: Instead, it alleges that the building is a blight on the neighborhood and the defendants negligently condone the illegal activity.
Gustavo Vlazakis owns the building at 201 Leavenworth St. that houses the Maryland Market.
He and Ashok Kumar, the Maryland Market’s owner, argue that the drug dealing issue occurs on city streets in a notoriously bad neighborhood. They say the illegal activity is beyond their control and not their responsibility.
“Drugs are dealt on every corner around here,” Kumar said in an interview in his tiny store, which is well stocked with $1.19 quarts of St. Ides and similar malt liquors. He has run the business for the last 14 years.. “They could pick any liquor store in the neighborhood to sue. Why me?”
The litigation started in September 1995 as 62 small claims suits filed in San Francisco Municipal Court by neighbors of the Maryland Market, all alleging emotional distress. Because jurisdictional statutes allow for the transfer of emotional distress cases to the defendant’s home court, Vlazakis and Kumar in March succeeded in getting the cases transferred across the bay to Vlazakis’ hometown of Piedmont.
Getting 62 Tenderloin residents to the OaklandPiedmont Muni Court presented a logistical problem, and the small claims actions were withdrawn.
Then Randall Shaw of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic filed the S.F. Superior Court case on behalf of the neighbors. The suit also added a nearby liquor store and its landlord as defendants.
In September, Vlazakis and his co-defendants — who are represented by Vlazakis’ son, Oakland solo George Vlazakis, along with five other lawyers hired by various insurance companies — filed a cross complaint alleging everything from civil rights violations to unfair business practices. Among other allegations, the younger Vlazakis says the plaintiffs misused the small claims process by bringing the litigation in the form of 62 separate but almost identical actions.
On Friday, S.F. Superior Court Judge David Garcia is set to rule on the clinic’s motion to strike the cross-complaint. Shaw alleges that the cross-complaint is nothing more than a retaliatory SLAPP suit – a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — and should be dismissed accordingly.