Photo Caption: Tropical Tanning remains closed after owner Pam Hines’s landlord locked her out of her business because of late rent payments.
The owner of a new uptown Athens tanning parlor was in court last week, asking a judge to order her landlord, who has locked her out for not paying rent on time, to let her re-open for business.
An attorney for Pam Hines, owner of Tropical Tan, argued Friday in Athens County Common Pleas Court that one reason landlord David E. Full may have chosen to lock Hines out of her business at 21-1/2 S. Court St. last month is that by offering cut-rate tanning deals, Hines was hurting the profitability of Outer Glow, a rival tanning salon right across the street, which rents a commercial space from Full at 14 S. Court.
Judge L. Alan Goldsberry indicated Friday that he will issue a ruling early this week, on whether to order Full to let Hines re-open her business.
On May 1, Hines sued Full in Common Pleas Court, asking Goldsberry to order Full to let her back into the building, which contains 19 tanning beds, electrical transformers, and other equipment.
Hines claims she has made more than $60,000 worth of improvements to the site. Because of being locked out, she alleges, she is now facing possible lawsuits by employees over wages, as well as from customers who paid up-front for multiple tanning sessions and haven't gotten them.
Hines has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, asking Goldsberry to order Full to let her back into the building. She has noted that one clause in her lease would allow Full to take possession of the improvements she has made to the building unless the court intervenes.
Full claims Hines was consistently late with rent payments from the time he first leased her the space last October. Hines's attorney, Richard M. Lewis, claims that the lease Hines signed is not legally valid, and that Full may have gone after Tropical Tan because it was hurting Outer Glow's business.
The parties also argued in court Friday over the issue of whether Hines was paying utility bills for a part of the building she didn't occupy.
Full admitted during testimony that he did notice, after Hines opened her business, that "I was not getting the rent like I had (been)" from Outer Glow. However, he added, "I never complained to (Hines) at all" about competing on prices with the nearby tanning parlor.
Under questioning by Lewis, Full acknowledged that Outer Glow's lease was essentially the same as Tropical Tan's, and that Outer Glow had also been late with its rent payment at least once since the beginning of the year.
"Have you locked them out?" Lewis demanded.
"No, sir," Full replied. He said the business's rent-payment performance was "not too bad."
Lewis asked Full to describe how, specifically, he would suffer damages if the judge ordered him to unlock the door and let Hines back in to operate her business.
"I don't see where the pattern would change," Full said, adding, "I didn't do this very lightly." He complained about what he called the "total confusion" surrounding Hines' understanding of her lease responsibilities.
Lewis also argued that the lease Hines signed was not properly notarized, and therefore not binding.
The notary public who notarized the lease testified that while she watched as both Full and Hines sign the document, she failed to include Full's name in a notary statement. "That was an oversight on my part," said notary Melissa Wilfong.
Questioned by Lewis, Full acknowledged that Hines has given him rent checks for multiple months, some of which he has not cashed. He said these consistently arrived late.
"You have nine months of rent in your possession, don't you?" Lewis asked.
"Yes, sir," the landlord replied.
Attorney Rick Oremus, who represents Full, questioned Hines about what he suggested were her remarkably low-priced deals on tanning. He noted that one package deal was for 25 tanning sessions at a price of $25, though Hines had earlier testified that her cost for each tanning session was considerably more than $1.
"How could you make any money?" Oremus asked.
"The quantity and the quality brings the profit," she answered.
Hines testified that she employed about a dozen Ohio University students, as well as three local high school students, at the business.
Tropical Tan currently has a handwritten sign posted on the front door, promising customers that it will re-open.