WARWICK, RI -Hooters Restaurant at 667 Airport Road, closed in March 2015 for roof repairs before dual lawsuits over an insurance settlement and Hooters of America’s challenge of its franchise, has weathered both challenges and has started work to return to business within several weeks.
Orthodontist Brad Turchetta, who owns the land leased to the restaurant owner, Phil Moran/Hoot Owl Restaurants LLC of Delaware/Warwick Wings, LLC, said Moran has honored his lease throughout the five years the restaurant has remained closed. The restaurant signed a new lease with him in 2014, Turchetta said, which remains in effect.
Turchetta said Moran’s plan was to begin repairs to the building Monday.
Those repairs were delayed by a lawsuit with the restaurant’s insurance company, Liberty Mutual, over the extent of the damage to the building following a 2015 snowstorm. Hoot Owl alleged the damage was significant structural damage and would require replacement of much of the building, with a consultant opinion supporting the claim. Liberty Mutual disagreed, and Warwick Building Official, agreed with the insurance company.
According to Hoot Owl Restaurants, LLC, et al v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Company, Warwick Building Official Alfred DeCorte said that on March 24, 2015, “I was at the above location and was able to inspect the roof trusses. My inspection disclosed that the 2” X 4” chords on multiple roof trusses were no longer attached to each other by the metal connector plates, which indicated to me that the trusses are in failure mode. In addition the columns which support the roof structure were exposed and it was noted that the structural integrity was compromised. Recognizing the severity of both failures, I could not allow the business to remain open.”
According to the suit, Liberty issued a check to Hoot Owl for $77,654.22 on July 17, 2015 for roof repairs and also checks totaling $282,415 for business interruption losses. But with DeCorte, Liberty’s assessor and an independent consultant all agreeing the damage to the roof could be repaired without replacing the entire building, the suit was dismissed June 5, 2019.
Earlier, in 2016, Hoot Owl successfully defended its franchise with Hooters of America, LLC, which sued the Delaware based franchise owner in U.S. District Court in Georgia to terminate their franchise agreement over the prolonged closure.
Hoot Owl argued it actively sought to resolve the insurance claim to allow the repair of the building which couldn’t be repaired and occupied without the approval of the Warwick City building inspector, and that Hooters of America had reversed its termination of the franchise by continuing to accept royalties and national advertising fees required in the franchise agreement.
That suit was essentially settled in 2016, but the case was not officially dismissed until Sept. 25, 2017.
According to a building permit approved March 24, 2015, the business had planned selective interior demolition and structural reconstruction for a future remodel project. The cost of that work was estimated at about $100,000 including labor and materials.
At the time, DeCorte said the business planned to update the building’s restrooms, and replace the greenhouse-style windows in the front of the building. A note in a Health Department inspection report says the work at the site at the time was the first part of a four-stage renovation process that will include an outside bar and patio.
The .45 acre property and 5,696 sq. ft. business are owned by Concord Realty Corp., according to Warwick Tax Assessor records. The combined assessment for the land and building is $744,300.