By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - E.A.T. may soon be O.U.T. if Eli Zabar's landlords successfully evict him from one of his food stores on Manhattan's Upper East Side, according to a new lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
Zabar, one of New York City's best-known food retailers, is seeking at least $5 million of damages from his landlords, who he said are trying to "harass" and "bully" him from the E.A.T. store on 1064 Madison Avenue, though his lease does not expire until May 2022.
According to the complaint, Zabar is the last remaining tenant in the building, which also includes residences, and which the landlords hope to redevelop or sell at a "substantial profit" over the $26 million they paid for it in January 2014.
Zabar also wants an injunction allowing him to continue his lease for E.A.T., which opened in 1973 and is located near East 80th Street, a short walk from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The landlords, WB 1064 Madison LLC and B&J 609 LLC, are represented by Goldberg Group, a White Plains, New York real estate firm, papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court show.
Goldberg did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Lawyers for Zabar did not immediately respond to similar requests.
Zabar said he sued 2-1/2 weeks after receiving a notice of default for eight alleged lease violations.
He said seven were "erroneous" or have been fixed, and that he is working "diligently" to address the eighth, concerning a temporary storage shed.
Zabar now has several stores in Manhattan, including Eli's Market on 3rd Avenue and The Vinegar Factory on East 91st Street.
He began his career at his family's namesake store on Broadway, on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
The case is E.A.T. is Owned by Eli Zabar Inc v B&J 609 LLC et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 650581/2018.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York)