BANGOR – The Frog Rock Cafe of Greenville and its predecessor, the Road Kill Cafe, both showed potential for enormous success before corporate America took an interest in the first eatery and a fire flattened the second, according to information brought out in court Thursday.
An accountant who analyzed the business testified that at its peak in the mid-1990s, the restaurant on the shores of Moosehead Lake was bringing in close to half a million dollars in total revenues per year and had a potential of growing an average of 15 percent annually for the foreseeable future.
Accountant Peter Curran of Bangor was so impressed with the business and its owners that, in addition to filing taxes for the restaurant’s parent company, he invested $15,000 in it, a move questioned closely by a defense attorney Thursday during the third day of a federal trial in Bangor.
The civil trial is taking place at U.S. District Court on Harlow Street. The chief U.S. district judge for Maine, D. Brock Hornby, is presiding.
Frog Rock owners Leigh Turner and Mariette Sinclair are suing the Netherlands Insurance Co. for refusing to pay a claim on the burned restaurant. They seek unspecified damages and accuse the insurer of bad faith and breach of contract, among other allegations.
The lawsuit trial has caused a bit of a stir because defense attorney Jerry Montejunas has offered a new theory on the mysterious fire, which remains unsolved.
“The Netherlands Insurance Co. says [Leigh] Turner did cause the fire,” Montejunas told the eight-member jury on Tuesday. The insurance company also is accusing Turner and Sinclair of fraud. Turner vehemently denied causing the fire or hiring someone to start the fire. He and Sinclair also deny the fraud allegation.
The trial, thus far, has consisted of lengthy testimony from Turner, including a 61/2-hour cross-examination over the course of two days that turned contentious at times. He finished his testimony Thursday morning. His attorney, Tyler Kolle of Lewiston, asked him about an offer the insurance company made before the issue came to trial. Apparently the insurance company had offered to pay $200,000 for the land parcel on which the restaurant had been located. However, Sinclair and Turner still owed $297,000 on the land and business.
“They [the insurance company] offered to pay $200,000 on a $300,000 obligation?” Kolle asked.
“Yes,” Turner replied.
Former employees testified Thursday, each describing a thriving business that faltered after a New York investor offered to take the business public, that is, to put it on the stock exchange once it was built up enough.
Turner and Sinclair, in 1997, relinquished daily oversight of the restaurant to scout out other properties. They took control again in the spring of 1998, evicting the investment company, but the restaurant sagged financially, putting Turner and Sinclair in desperate straits. By the time it burned, they were more than $1 million in debt. Their Greenville properties – the restaurant lot and the Great Northern Storehouse – have gone to auction, as have restaurants in Auburn, Rangeley and New Hampshire. The pair also have been subject to two different collection lawsuits filed in Piscataquis County courts.
The trial continues today.