Caterer says he felt like Fayette County Park District bullied him out of restaurant

Contract dispute between caterer and park district lands in court

By Ashley Bunton -

WASHINGTON C.H. — A caterer of more than 25 years, local chef Jason Gilmore of Parkison House Catering, says the Fayette County Park District violated a contract with him to open a restaurant at the golf course and has filed a lawsuit.

The golf course, formerly known as the Washington Country Club, a once-private club on 79.65 acres, is now known as The Greens. A restaurant and event center are still in The Greens, but the facilities are now in control of the Fayette County Parks District and leased to third parties. The golf course and restaurant are managed under different contracts.

The Fayette County Commissioners, who purchased the property with help from the Community Improvement Corporation of Fayette County, asked for proposals from people interested in re-opening the restaurant into business.

Gilmore was living in Los Angeles at the time but moved back to Washington Court House to create a plan for a restaurant. He is the past chef and owner of Oscars restaurant in Washington C.H. Building upon his 25 years of catering and food service knowledge, Gilmore said his plans included a full service dining room, a bar with food service, a snack bar, liquor sales, and Sunday brunch.

He coined the new restaurant The Little Tavern in the Green.

After receiving Gilmore’s proposal for a restaurant and auditioning, the Fayette County Park District awarded Gilmore with the contract. Court records state the Fayette County Park District and Gilmore entered into a contract May 2 and that Gilmore would be responsible for all liquor and food sales on the premises. He began to hire staff — bartenders, chefs, waitresses — to clean the building for the opening, and bought new furniture for the dining room.

Meanwhile, the Fayette County Park District had not yet begun to fix the leak in the roof, cracked plaster, sagging ceiling tile, and malfunctioning freezers.

Court documents state Gilmore signed the contract in reliance of a text message from park district board member David Kiger that read contractors would be hired the following day, May 3, with “work to begin immediately” on the building.

A week later, May 10, the Fayette County Park District posted on its Facebook account that it was “starting to fix up the clubhouse.”

An email from Kiger on May 30 states that work would begin “this week.”

A picture posted later on May 31 appears to show work being done on the building and states that remodeling “is under way.”

A month after signing the May 2 contract with Gilmore, on June 2, the Fayette County Park District posted a photo to Facebook and wrote, “Stopped by for a quick look and progress is going fast! Roof looks great! Old siding is coming down…Interior plaster is being fixed. Chimneys look like new again. Soooo excited!”

Six days later, June 8, the Fayette County Park District sent Gilmore a notice that he had breached the restaurant contract because he didn’t open the restaurant and failed to get a health inspection. Four days later the park district sent a locksmith to try to change the locks on the building.

“I felt bullied. That’s what I felt like,” Gilmore said during an interview this week.

Gilmore moved his possessions from the property and filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the Fayette County Park District commissioner’s board (David Kiger, Angela Tackett, Bob Pitakos, Dan Stahl, David Lewis) and the commissioners of Fayette County (Jack DeWeese, Tony Anderson, Dan Dean). Kiger recently resigned from the park district board.

The lawsuit was filed July 3. Court documents filed by Gilmore, pro se, state that he was unable to open the restaurant because the county had not completed its part of the agreement to have the building in operable condition. The remodeling on the interior and exterior of the building had been delayed and was ongoing. The Fayette County Health Department, if he would have invited them to inspect the restaurant, would not have granted a license with the condition that the building was in, Gilmore said.

The Fayette County Park District posted a photo on Facebook of the building June 19 and wrote, “We’ve come a long way… and we’re not done yet!”

The Highland House Restaurant and Event Centre was opened in the building at The Greens and is the current restaurant in operation there.

Gilmore said, “I know what it takes to do what they’ve done. I hope they do really well. We need something like that and I really do hope they stay and have a good run.”

But he also wants people know that he didn’t just give up and quit.

“I feel I have a real complaint, a real case, and I want it heard by a jury and let them decide who’s right and who’s wrong and go from there,” said Gilmore. “I want people to know I didn’t breach the contract. I didn’t breach. I wasn’t at fault. That’s why I filed the suit, that’s why I want a jury to hear that and decide what actually happened. I think the problem is that in this town a lot of that goes on, and you can’t sit and take it, you have to stand up for yourself and decide what is right and what is wrong and do something. I think people in town a lot of times just go with the flow.”

Contract dispute between caterer and park district lands in court

By Ashley Bunton

Reach Ashley by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching for @ashbunton

Reach Ashley by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching for @ashbunton