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Pinball Arcade Museum fights eviction

Margie Manning

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The Pinball Arcade Museum at 2313 Central Ave.

Just months after opening in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District, The Pinball Arcade Museum faces eviction.

An attorney for the landlord, Abraham Reid, has told museum owners Andrew and Brenda Kline that their lease will not be renewed when it expires on Dec. 31.

Kline has filed a lawsuit in Pinellas County court contesting that notice. The lawsuit said Kline has the right to renew the lease and he wants to exercise that right.

Kline is asking for a declaratory judgment and for the court to find he has the right to renew his lease. If he’s not allowed to renew the lease, he’s asking the court to rule he should be able to recover damages, including the money he spent to improve the property.

Lawyers trade letters

The Pinball Arcade Museum, as 2313 Central Ave., opened to a lot of fanfare and media attention on Aug. 1. It’s organized as a nonprofit, with a mission to help with the food bill at another  nonprofit, the Odessa Wildlife Rescue & Sanctuary, according to the museum’s website.

According to the lawsuit, Reid and Kline originally signed a lease on Oct. 19, 2018, but the property was still occupied by another tenant, so they signed a new lease that would begin Jan. 1, 2019.

That lease authorized Kline to make repairs and improvements that would make it suitable for use as a pinball and arcade museum, and Kline invested “significant resources” into property updates as well as promotion and marketing, the lawsuit said.

On Nov. 12, Kline’s attorney, Joshua Eggnatz, notified Reid’s attorney that Kline wanted to renew the lease. According to Eggnatz’ letter, which is included as an exhibit with the lawsuit, Reid had sent an email a week earlier, suggesting that Kline did not have the right to renew and that Kline made unauthorized improvements.

“First and foremost, the lease specifically grants Mr. Kline the right to renew. Period. Second, the lease specifically authorizes Mr. Kline to make repairs and improvements for the use of The Pinball Arcade Museum,” Eggnatz wrote.

Kline also agreed to a 5 percent rent increase starting in January, paying rent of $2,625 a month, the letter said.

Reid’s attorney, David Blum, responded to Eggnatz on Dec. 3, saying “the right of first refusal” to extend the lease was added after Reid signed the lease. Reid didn’t agree to that and he has the right to take back the property, Blum said.

Kline’s rent payment for December was returned to him, because it represented the payment for the last month of the lease that was included in Kline’s $7,500 deposit at the time the lease was signed, Blum said.

“If your client remains on at the Premises after Dec. 31, 2019, my client will seek to have him lawfully evicted from the Premises and may seek damages,” Blum wrote.

Kline filed suit about a week after Blum’s letter, on Dec. 11.

A hearing date has not been set.

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