PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It appears to be business as usual for a longtime wedding and events venue in Providence, even after the city was given the green light to evict the business from its prime spot in Waterplace Park.
Skyline at Waterplace owner Michael Mota told 12 News he has appealed an R.I. District Court judge’s ruling, which concluded the city is within its rights to evict the venue for not adhering to legal deadlines.
Mota said Skyline will remain “open for business” since the appeal “vacates” the eviction notice.
But a city spokesperson explained that the venue still needs to file a motion to stay in the space while the matter goes through the courts.
When asked whether he would be filing a motion to stay, Mota replied, “the appeal [has] vacated the eviction — so we are staying in the space until a trial.”
Jodi Mota, Skyline’s director of operations and Michael’s wife, said scheduled events will go as planned.
“We’re not going to be taken advantage of,” she added. “We’re going to fight for our customers.”
Jodi noted that Skyline is still booking for future events as well, adding that the venue is confident it will prevail in court.
Skyline and the city have been embroiled in a legal battle since April, when the venue’s owners were accused of violating the lease agreement by not keeping the property in good condition and not taking the proper precautions “to prevent waste, damage and injury.”
The city claimed that it received numerous complaints about the condition of Skyline’s premises. Those complaints included the venue leaving trash, waste, furniture and kitchen equipment outside “in the public right of way.”
If Skyline didn’t comply with the lease agreement, the city warned that it would “seek payment of rent from December 1, 2019, through August 1, 2023.”
Michael Lepizzera, the attorney representing Skyline, argued the city can’t legally make the venue pay that rent back, especially since its lease was amended several times to address the business’s struggles throughout the pandemic.
Lepizzera accused the city of manufacturing “…dishonest reasons to move forward with its complaint for reasons other than non-payment of rent.”
“Those reasons are flat out erroneous, wrong and form absolutely no legal basis to evict Skyline,” he said.
Lepizzera argued that Skyline also “had no part” in the city’s lease amendments, which extended the venue’s rent abatement period to January 2023 amid financial hardships.
“Skyline had requested a much longer rent abatement due to the pandemic,” he said. “The city agreed to extend the rent abatement for a much shorter period of time … It was the city that prepared the lease amendment.”
Skyline opted to pay the city more than $72,000 in rent to cover the six-month rent abatement period, as well as for the months of February and March, though at the time, Lepizzera said it was being “paid under protest.”