L'Eagle, one of Denver's longstanding marijuana dispensaries and the recipient of multiple Best of Denver awards over the years, is in the midst of an ugly legal battle with its landlord. The most recent salvo is an eviction notice, filed July 15 by North Mountain Group LLC, demanding that L'Eagle leave its home of ten years at 380 Quivas Street.
But L'Eagle owners Amy and John Andrle not only want to stay, they want to own the building where they've spent their entire cannabis careers, and say that their lease gives them the right to buy it.
The simmering disagreements boiled over on July 10, when the Andrles' attorneys filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court against NMG and its owner, Douglas Norberg, affirming that the Andrles still reserve the right to purchase the building under a clause in their lease. Five days later, NMG filed its own lawsuit seeking eviction, citing alleged property damages that L'Eagle failed to repair.
The Andrles have thirty days to respond to the eviction order, but the competing lawsuits are likely to lengthen that process, as the parties each have over a month before an initial hearing in Denver District Court.
"It's a complete stick in the spokes, and yet we're still charging ahead," says Amy Andrle.
The L'Eagle lawsuit against NMG focuses on a clause in the lease that was agreed upon in 2016 when NMG bought the building, according to L'Eagle. It stipulates that the Andrles would pay around $6,500 more per month in rent, going from $8,000 to $14,500, in exchange for retaining the right to eventually purchase the property.
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In the suit, L'Eagle's attorneys argue that NMG never intended to honor that clause, and is using the property repairs as an excuse to void the purchasing option. According to L'Eagle, questionable demands began as early as 2018, when NMG insisted that the dispensary owners pay for repairs to a broken water line under Quivas Street. Although the Andreles disputed that demand, they eventually paid for the repairs. All told, they say, they've put around $500,000 into building renovations since 2010, believing they'd eventually own the property.
NMG's lawsuit doesn't mention the purchase-option clause, and simply asserts that the entire lease is broken because of the property's disrepair. It claims that L'Eagle failed to address damage to the building's roof in a timely manner in early 2020, and didn't repair a declining parking lot; it also charges that L'Eagle improperly used parking spaces reserved for a neighboring tenant at 400 Quivas Street.
The Andrles respond that they've been trying to do the repairs despite disagreeing with the need for them, but scheduling contractors has taken longer than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, they say, their neighbors have been the ones improperly using L'Eagle's rightful parking spaces.
But a letter from Norberg to L'Eagle attorneys claims that L’Eagle "did nothing" with respect to maintaining the parking lot and fixing the roof earlier this year after NMG requested the repairs; he notes that NMG was able to get a contractor to inspect the parking lot on one day's notice in June.
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"We disagreed that there was anything wrong with the parking lot or the roof, but we've been trying to work with them to figure it out," Amy Andrle responds. "Purchasing this building is our future. This is our mom-and-pop shop. To be able to own that space would be incredibly valuable to us. It's why [we] agreed to increase the rent by 80 percent when they took ownership of the building."
Both parties are seeking compensatory damages and the right to retain possession of the building. Norberg and NMG declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuits, saying simply that "the allegations set forth in the eviction lawsuit against L’Eagle will be proven in court.”
In the meantime, L'Eagle is open for business at 380 Quivas.
Update: This article was updated on July 29 to fix an error stating the clause allowing L'Eagle to purchase the building at 380 Quivas Street was agreed upon between L'Eagle and the building's former owner.