Malt Shop, Kaya owners file lawsuit against landlord; cite building safety concerns, fraud


Two Mount Pleasant businesses that are popular with Central Michigan University students, The Malt Shop and Kaya Coffee House, are closed indefinitely. 

With a lawsuit filed against the owner of the building by the owners of the eateries, it's uncertain when they will reopen.

A sign is posted on The Malt Shop's door states the building is "closed for summer cleaning." This is the second time since March that the building has been closed to customers. One of the owners of The Malt Shop and Kaya Coffee House, Tim Otteman, is now elaborating on the closure and the legal dispute. 

Otteman and his brother, Jim, took ownership of The Malt Shop from the Haddad family in June 2014. Samuel and Salam Haddad remained owners of the building, however. The brothers developed a new menu and redecorated the business in maroon and gold as well as adding historic CMU photos and athletic uniforms.

"When the opportunity came to purchase it, we took it," Otteman told CM Life in 2014. "We wanted to give back to the community and show passion for the community we grew up in."

When Kaya vacated its location across the street in the former SBX Bookstore building, the Ottemans offered The Malt Shop's “Alumni Room” to Kaya owners Emily Miller and Abigail Chambers. When Kaya reopened there on April 1, 2017, Miller and Chambers sold the business to the Ottemans.

Today both businesses are closed, Otteman said, due to a legal dispute with the building's owners, Samuel and Salam Haddad. On June 1, The Malt Shop owners filed a lawsuit against the Haddads in Isabella County District Court citing breach of contract and fraud. The lawsuit states that The Malt Shop incurred more than $12,000 for the cost of repairs and remediation caused by flooding in the basement.

According to the lawsuit, on March 7 The Malt Shop closed for several days because the building required "significant repairs and remediation based on the gross negligence and/or intentional misconduct of the Haddads" in regards to repairs made in the basement before their lease with Otteman. 

Otteman's attorney, Timothy Hoesch, said that the main concern of owners is "the safety and well being of its customers and employees." Hoesch said the lawsuit cites several safety and functionality problems that have been discovered about the building.

On Feb. 15, AJ's Plumbing investigated a leak in building's basement. An invoice states that the leak was found to be coming from a pipe connected to the storm drain. On the roof, it was discovered that the storm drains had three-to-four inches of backed up water in them. After the water was pumped from the roof, the plumber found old heat tape inside of the storm drains. It was noted that the tape was "five to 10 years old by the looks of the heat tape and caulk joint applied, that was burned in half."

The AJ's Plumbing invoice goes on to state that the plumber was unable to pull the wire out of the pipe due to a frozen block of ice inside. Plumbing in the basement leaked because of "defective installation of heat tape which caused an electrical short or arc that melted a pipe and caused the basement to flood," according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit lists other "misrepresentations," or things that were discovered to be wrong, with the building and its appliances.

According to the lawsuit, before the Ottemans signed the lease with the Haddads in 2014, they were told that fire suppression systems were in place, were "up to code" and required no additional expense or work.

However, when a pizza oven required replacement in January 2015, the Ottemans discovered that the fire suppression systems "were capped off and disconnected" in the building's ceiling. Additionally, the "ansul system," which is part of fire suppression, above the original location of the deep fryers was also discovered to be incorrectly installed.

"Frankly, it is miraculous, given the nature of the homemade 'repairs' found, that the building itself did not burn down and/or that individuals were not seriously injured or even killed," said Hoesch in a March 12 letter written to the Haddads. 

Otteman declined to comment further about the lawsuit, stating he believed "the filing speaks for itself."

Central Michigan Life made multiple attempts to contact the Haddads for comment.