A dispute between two friends over more than $38,000 in construction costs will resurface Thursday in court when a judge decides whether to reopen the case.
Contractor Eric Stelske claims Eric Mahoney didn’t pay for renovations at his bar and restaurant, One Sports Lounge, in Milwaukee. On May 22, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge John Siefert ruled in favor of Stelske by default because Mahoney and a second defendant missed the deadline to respond to the claim.
But Mahoney’s lawyer wants to reopen the case, claiming Mahoney’s response was lost in the mail.
Hickorybridge Construction LLC, which Stelske owns, claims to be owed $38,161.37 for the project at One Sports Lounge. Work — performed between Oct. 15, 2010, and Jan. 25, 2011 — included building out the bar, installing a hardwood floor, tiling the bathrooms, painting, and performing electrical and plumbing work, according to the lawsuit.
The suit names as defendants One Sports Lounge LLC and Joe Tairi, who owns the building at 1007 N. Old World Third St. the bar and restaurant occupies.
In Hickorybridge’s motion for the default judgment in May, the contractor asserted that April 17 was the latest the defendants could respond to the complaint. But a response from Tairi was not dated until April 18, and One Sports Lounge did not respond.
But Verona Swanigan, who represents One Sports Lounge, on June 4 motioned to reopen the case. In the motion, she claimed Mahoney’s response was interrupted by “a mailing error,” though the motion does not specify when the response was sent.
Swanigan on June 4 also submitted One Sports Lounge’s response to Hickorybridge’s allegations, denying the bar owes money and claiming Hickorybridge “misrepresented the facts of the agreement.”
A hearing on the motion is set for Thursday afternoon.
Swanigan did not respond to requests for comment by deadline Wednesday afternoon.
According to a letter filed May 14 with the court, Mahoney claims he and Stelske had an agreement for Hickorybridge to perform a project, but the letter does not specify the scope of that project. The letter was addressed to Siefert and signed by Mahoney.
“The facts are that Eric (Stelske) was to be an investor in a project,” according to the letter.
According to the letter, Mahoney gave Stelske $14,000 that was to be subtracted from future profits Stelske would receive as an investor in the bar and restaurant. Mahoney, according to the letter, gave Stelske the money because he “was encountering some financial difficulties over time.”
The letter describes Stelske’s claim as baseless and that it stems from “a partnership gone awry” and “the taking advantage of a friendship.”
Mahoney could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Stelske said Mahoney’s claims are false.
“I’m not a partner whatsoever in the bar business,” Stelske said. “That’s a ploy for him not to pay.”
The $14,000 was payment for materials, Stelske said.
The final cost of the project, he said, was more than what he is seeking, but he declined to give that overall amount. Stelske said he and Mahoney had agreed to handle the project on a time-and-materials basis, meaning the total price of the renovations wouldn’t be known until the project was completed.
Stelske said he doesn’t prefer to approach a project that way and will be more judicious if a client asks for that type of arrangement.
Stelske filed a construction lien against Mahoney and Tairi in April 2011, which he said is intended to recover costs for materials and labor on the project at One Sports Lounge.
Stelske said he has worked for Mahoney in the past and is surprised by the outcome.
“Never in a million years,” Stelske said, “would I think a friend would have done that.”