After a board decision to replace Rick's Steaks in Reading Terminal Market with a new restaurant, the owner of the local steak sandwich shop announced today that he is taking his beef with the market's management to court.
Rick Olivieri filed this afternoon for a temporary restraining order aimed at keeping the Center City market's management from forcing Rick's Steaks to leave after his lease ends tomorrow, according to Olivieri's lawyer, Bill Harvey. Harvey added in an interview today that there are also "damages sought in excess of $75,000."
The complaint, filed in Common Pleas Court, is against Ricardo Dunston, Reading Terminal Market Corp.'s chairman; Paul Steinke, the market's general manager; and Tony Luke, the restaurant owner set to replace Rick's.
The Reading Terminal Market Corp. decided last month that after his business had been there for 25 years, Olivieri's lease would not be renewed at the end of July. It said Luke would bring a more prominent face to the market.
"I think this is definitely personal," said Olivieri, who claims the board is evicting him because he vocally opposed new lease terms while president of the Reading Terminal Merchants Association. The disputed terms included extended workday hours and required reporting of monthly sales figures.
Kevin Feeley, the market's spokesman, said the legal complaint is nothing more than a public spectacle.
"It's unfortunate that Mr. Olivieri is putting his interests above those of Reading Terminal Market," Feeley said in a telephone interview.
The Amish merchants in Reading Terminal announced that the 19th Annual Dutch Festival, scheduled for Aug. 8 through 11, was canceled in protest of the board's decision.
David Esh, owner-operator of Hatville Deli and a representative of the Amish merchants, said in a statement released today: "Dutch Fest is a celebration and, quite honestly, we are not in a mood to celebrate."
In addition, 5,000 customers signed a petition in support of Rick's Steaks in recent weeks, according to Olivieri.
Olivieri is the grandson of Pasquale "Pat" Olivieri, who is credited with inventing the Philadelphia cheesesteak with his brother, Harry, about 75 years ago.
Said Paul Mikta, a 52-year-old weekly customer from Montgomery County: "It's just not right. They invented it, so how can they throw them out?"