Tenant rumble at Robert Rivani’s Wynwood Jungle in Miami

His firm, Black Lion, is suing affiliate of Columbus, Ohio-based restaurateur Brian Swanson for allegedly backing out of lease for 6K space at retail plaza

Tenant Rumble At Robert Rivani’s Wynwood Jungle In Miami
Wynwood Jungle at 50 Northwest 24th Street, Black Lion's Robert Rivani and Bristol Republic restaurant owner Brian Swanson (Black Lion, Facebook, Getty)

Robert Rivani’s Black Lion is in a legal tussle with a tenant that allegedly backed out of opening a restaurant at Wynwood Jungle in Miami.

An affiliate of Columbus, Ohio-based restaurateur Brian Swanson last week sued an affiliate of Miami-based Black Lion Investment Group that owns the 23,000-square-foot retail and restaurant building at 50 Northwest 24th Street. 

The complaint, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, accuses Black Lion of breaching a lease agreement by only providing Swanson’s entity with 6,158 square feet for a new restaurant when the deal allegedly called for 7,751 square feet. 

Six days later, Black Lion countersued Swanson’s affiliate, alleging the square footage claim is a bogus attempt to break a lease for the uncompleted space that the restaurant operator took control of in October. The landlord is seeking damages of at least $316,000 that represent costs associated with partially building out the commercial unit, the Black Lion lawsuit states. 

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Rivani, Black Lion’s attorney Ben Solomon and Swanson’s lawyer Robert McCausland all declined comment. 

Black Lion paid $13.3 million for Wynwood Jungle in 2021. A year later, Rivani’s firm reached a deal with Swanson to have him open a Miami outpost of his Bristol Republic barbecue restaurant that is based in Columbus, Ohio, according to published reports. 

Swanson’s affiliate agreed to pay $42,599 a month in the first year of a 10-year lease, a copy of the 2022 rental agreement shows. Swanson also accepted annual rent increases that would have bumped the monthly payment to $55,583 by the 10th year.

In its countersuit, Black Lion alleges that Swanson, as an experienced restaurateur, knew that the Wynwood Jungle space was 6,158 square feet and not 7,751 square feet when he submitted architectural plans to the city last year. 

Recently, Rivani’s firm pivoted into office development. Last month, Black Lion paid $63.5 million for The Lincoln, a six-story mixed-use building with ground-floor retail and five floors of office space. Black Lion is planning a $50 million renovation of The Lincoln’s exterior and interior, and will rebrand the property at The Rivani.