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Orchid nightclub subject of lawsuit

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By RYAN GEDDES

The Times-Union

Downtown's Orchid just won't germinate.

The high-end nightclub, once planned for a historic building in the Bay Street Town Center, has been delayed for months, and its developers are now the subject of a lawsuit.

Bay Street Warehousing LLC, the building's owner, has filed a complaint in Duval County Circuit Court against Orchid LLC alleging that the company broke the parties' June 2004 lease agreement by failing to pay a security deposit on time and by not providing Bay Street Warehousing with timely plans for the project.

The suit also claims that Orchid LLC fraudulently transferred its liquor license to an affiliated company, Double Happiness LLC, to protect the asset in the event of a lawsuit.

Michael Munz, a vice president of The Dalton Agency who spoke on behalf of Orchid LLC principals Daryl Strickland and Joshua Duke during the project's early stages, said in March 2004 interviews that the club would be "unlike anything else in Jacksonville" and that its plans would be "cutting edge and upscale."

Munz, who also serves as a promoter and spokesman for the Bay Street Town Center project, said he has not talked with Orchid LLC representatives since summer 2004.

"We probably met five or six times with them during the course of working it out, and then they seemed to, quite frankly, drop off the face of the Earth," said Munz. "With my Bay Street hat on, I can say it's disappointing that it's come to this."

Strickland, who is an owner of Daryl Powers Salon & Spa in nearby Berkman Plaza, did not return phone calls requesting comment.

Jonathan Insetta, a principal with Double Happiness and with an affiliated company, Happy Ending Development Inc., would not comment directly on the lawsuit, which names his companies as being recipients of the fraudulent liquor license transfer.

"All I can really say is Happy Ending is no longer affiliated with the Orchid project and has not been for some time now," said Insetta.

Julia Suddath-Ranne, who co-owns the Hutchinson-Suddath building, declined to talk in detail about the Orchid lawsuit but said there are now no long-term leases signed for the building. Orchid developers had originally planned a June 2004 opening, a date that was later changed to early 2005, in time for Super Bowl XXXIX celebrations.

Instead, Suddath-Ranne said Bay Street Warehousing will donate the ground floor of the building to the Jacksonville chapter of the National Alliance For the Mentally Ill for use during Super Bowl week. The alliance plans to operate a temporary coffee shop in the space and will serve drinks and snacks to Super Bowl visitors, Suddath-Ranne said.

A building permit application filed in December by Bay Street Warehousing now lists the project as The Suddath Bar.

ryan.geddesjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4689

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._17723654.shtml.

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I was really looking forward to this club opening up. It sounded so upscale and fancy, and would've been perfect for the Town Center. But alas, it (like many other downtown projects) may not come to pass...

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Yeah, it would have been nice, but unfortunately, all announced projects don't work out. Its even more unfortunate, that after a year of offering tax breaks for restaurants and clubs along Bay Street, no one has taken the city up on its offer, except the struggling Eclate, which will probably close up shop, after the super bowl is played.

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