Short’s Burger and Shine files lawsuit against landlord MidWestOne Bank

The restaurant filed the suit against MidWestOne Bank on March 23.


Matt Sindt

Short’s Burgers and Shine recently remodeled and reopened their location in downtown Iowa City and are serving customers on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

Sabine Martin, Managing Editor

Short’s Burger and Shine filed a lawsuit against its landlord last month after an alleged breach of contract and malicious prosecution. 

Short’s counsel Shawn Shearer stated in a press release on Monday that Short’s co-owner Kevin Perez reportedly notified the landlord, MidWestOne Bank, from 2018 to 2022 that the structural integrity of the restaurant’s location, at 18 S. Clinton St. in Iowa City, needed repairs. 

No renovations were immediately made to the structure after Perez’s initial requests, according to court documents. 

“The petition is the latest act in a nearly three-year battle over when and how the property can be used and must be maintained by MidWestOne as trustee,” a news release from the Shearer Law Office in Des Moines stated.  

Shearer said in an interview with The Daily Iowan that Short’s plans to stay in its building and has the right to stay for the next three years.

“We have pled that they used the court process from July of 2022 through March of 2023 to intentionally deprive Short’s of its ability to exercise its rights to stay,” Shearer told the DI

The restaurant closed in April 2022 for renovations and reopened in August 2022. Perez told The Daily Iowan in September that the restaurant reopened with newly refinished floors, tables, chairs, repainted walls, and a completely remodeled kitchen.

“I was calling it the 13-year facelift,” Perez told the DI in September. 

Perez stated in the news release that the restaurant also needed renovations of a collapsing back wall and cracks in the basement wall, which caused water to flood into the basement during rain and snow melt. 

Short’s lease states that the landlord must provide a habitable building and the landlord is obligated to replace and repair the structural parts of the building including the foundation, exterior walls, load-bearing components of interior floors and walls, the roof, and all sewers, pipes, wiring and electrical fixtures outside of the building, according to court documents. 

The City of Iowa City inspected the restaurant and discovered the structural damage, according to court documents. The city asked the owners to close the restaurant in April 2022 and shut off its natural gas supply because of the crumbling walls and the gas pipe’s integrity, according to court documents. 

Short’s opened its downtown location in 2008.  

“I’ve had a restaurant or a business in this town since 1993,” Perez said. “I went to school here, and I’ve been around for a really long time. I’ve always had really great relationships with all of my landlords and this is the first time I’ve ever had a landlord turn into an entity.” 

MidWestOne files lawsuits

MidWestOne filed three lawsuits from July 2022 to January, according to court documents, after Short’s owners alleged breaches of the lease. Two of three of the lawsuits were voluntarily dismissed without prejudice by March 9. 

“I’ve been practicing law since 1993 and I have never seen a landlord, which is MidWestOne, behave like this,” Shearer said. “The real problem here is the MidWestOne. It’s not Haywood Belle and his family — they were great. The problem is Mr. Perez and Short’s repeatedly told MidWestOne that there were structural problems for three years, and they didn’t fix it.” 

According to court documents, an evidentiary hearing was scheduled on March 9 at 9 a.m. to hear the first two lawsuits. At 8:06 a.m. day of the hearing, MidWestOne voluntarily dismissed both cases.

After the case’s dismissal, MidWestOne sent Short’s a letter declaring that the restaurant’s lease term would expire on April 30 because of nonrenewal by failure to provide 90 days before notice of lease renewal.

“As we discussed this morning, the Trust has dismissed the pending FED actions and anticipates that Short’s will vacate the premises at 18 S. Clinton Street by midnight on April 30, 2023, pursuant to expiration of the current Lease term and termination of the Lease, absent a failure to pay March or April rent and a failure to cure after notice,” the letter from Siobhan Briley of the Pugh Hagan Prahm law firm read.

“You can’t say there is no lease from May of 2002 to March of 2023 and then say, ‘Oh, there is a lease and you forgot to renew in January,’” Shearer said. 

The lawsuits alleged that Short’s breached the lease because of failure to pay rent for the period July 2022 to January 2023. 

“As soon as they dropped the cases, they wouldn’t take [rent] from July of 2022 through May of 2023,” Shearer said. “They wouldn’t accept rent payments. And then as soon as they dropped the cases on March 9, we paid them back rent for the entire time.” 

MidWestOne also filed a civil petition at law alleging breach of contract by Short’s failure to pay rent for the period July 2022 to January 2023  — the same period listed in one of the lawsuits against Short’s. 

The civil petition was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice on March 15.

Shearer said MidWestOne is set to respond to the lawsuit by April 28.