Beloved and shuttered Winter Park institution Luma on Park is far from your typical coronavirus closure. In a new lawsuit
filed against their one-time landlord, the culinary crossroads of the Orlando area laid out a wild story, claiming they were forced out of the space by a "diabolical" patriarch who was jealously and vindictively guarding his assets from the rest of his family.
Luma on Park's attorneys claim in the lawsuit that Bill Battaglia, in his role as head of the company that oversaw the property, acted erratically and without the input of his family or business partners in dealing with Luma in recent years. They say that Battaglia attempted to increase their rent by over 90% with little regard to the market rate of the surrounding area, and note the ongoing feud between Battaglia and his family members as his motivation.
The lawsuit cites court cases between members of the Battaglia family
in which other offshoots of the clan claim to have been cut out of inheritances or physically locked out of offices. Bill and his brother Robert themselves were both scions of local citrus magnate Sylvester Battaglia, who passed away in 2004.
Luma claims that an irrational Battaglia was both attempting to devalue assets that might benefit his allegedly estranged family and using negotiations with Luma around the space to flex his muscles. His high demands placed on Luma regarding rent payments during the coronavirus crisis were seen by the restaurant as a way to show his family he's still in charge of their various business holdings.
Luma is seeking damages that could total more than $5 million and is asking to return to their former restaurant space, as they believe the process of their removal was improper and illegal.
Representatives for the landlord company shared a statement with Orlando Weekly, claiming that the restaurant ownership is engaging in "revisionist history" that "ignores [their own actions]."
"Luma voluntarily abandoned the space, removed all of the furniture and fixtures, and turned over possession to the landlord in September 2020 while still owing the landlord over $180,000 in rent," attorney Michael Sasso shared on behalf of the Battaglias. "Rather than acknowledging its own choices, Luma is trying to capitalize upon a family dispute in an effort to disparage the landlord, but fails to disclose that after an emergency hearing upon the brother’s motion, the court denied the requested relief as the brother had failed to present substantial competent evidence in support of his allegations against Bill Battaglia."
Plans have been announced for a new Mediterranean restaurant in the space
from a Miami-based ownership group. The pending lawsuit, of course, complicates things.
Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters, and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you Central Florida news, and every little bit helps.