|Fireworks store sues to ban its competitor|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Jim McGauley|
|Wednesday, 03 August 2011 10:36|
Phantom Fireworks, which recently broke ground for a 10,000 square foot store at the I-10-SR 228 interchange, is going to court to prevent its former landlord from competing with it in the former location.
In a lawsuit filed July 21, Phantom alleges that Diane Montgomery of Gainesville, the present landlord on the northeast corner of the busy interchange, is not authorized to sell fireworks (termed “sparklers” in state statutes) because of a 2007 moratorium by the Florida Legislature.
Phantom, which has been at its present location in a former Stuckeys since 1999, in February obtained approval from the City of Macclenny to construct a new retail store on two out-parcels just south of Walmart.
The suit also names Baker County as co-defendant, though it’s not clear why since the state fire marshal’s office issues permits for firework sales.
Mrs. Montgomery already has a permit from the state.Phantom earlier this year approached the county building and zoning department about denying Mrs. Montgomery an occupational license in light of the state moratorium, but was rebuffed for the same reason. The plaintiffs contend that the 2007 action prohibited new fireworks permitting after March of that year and remains in effect.
“The intention of the law was to protect public health and safety by limiting the number of retail facilities authorized to engage in retail sale of fireworks,” the suit contends.
Phantom’s lease on its present site expired on July 31, and Mrs. Montgomery along with her ex-husband Mark, of Melrose, attempted to take possession of the property on Monday. Mr. Montgomery brought a trailer load of fireworks with him to stock what his wife plans to label Ceremonial Fireworks.
He said Phantom employees barred him from the property on Sunday, so he camped out in a motor home in the Walmart parking lot a short distance away from where the new store foundation is being prepped.
Mr. Montgomery is already in the fireworks business in Starke.
“I’m going to put a fireworks store there as soon as they leave,” declared Mr. Montgomery, who along with his ex-wife retained Frank Maloney of Macclenny as counsel.
Their attorney said he is sending out a letter this week giving Phantom 15 days to vacate, answering an amendment to the lawsuit filed Monday by plaintiff’s counsel Wayne Flowers of Jacksonville citing his client’s right to continue the expired lease on a month-to-month basis.
“What they’re doing with this is asking a judge to enjoin anyone else from selling fireworks in Baker County,” said Mr. Maloney. “And that would have to include Walmart and the convenience stores like Citgo.”
Mr. Flowers did not respond to a telephoned request for comment.
Fireworks retailers like Phantom, which has another north Florida location near St. Augustine along I-95, do about 90 percent of annual sales during week leading up to July 4th and New Years.
Phantom told the City of Macclenny in February it was spending around $2 million for property acquisition and construction of its new store.
|Last Updated on Friday, 05 August 2011 07:56|