Relaunch of The Five Chairs in Lenox ends in lawsuit for unpaid rent, expenses
LENOX — Popular watering hole The Five Chairs reopened this year, briefly.
After shuttering in 2016, the landmark tavern on Route 7/20 was renovated and relaunched this winter under new management. The restaurant closed just months later due to the difficulty management had attracting the right staff and a large enough customer base to maintain the restaurant.
Now, the building's owner and Five Chairs founder, William Vahle, said he is trying to get former manager Allan Mannarelli to vacate the restaurant. Vahle filed a summary process to evict Mannarelli in Pittsfield District Court on July 1. Vahle is seeking more than $50,000 in unpaid rent, real estate taxes and electric charges, etc.
In response to Vahle's complaint, Mannarelli said he is not the building's tenant, according to court documents. Mannarelli is countersuing Vahle, seeking $500 to compensate for time spent addressing what he called a "nuisance" lawsuit.
Contacted at home, Vahle said that the lease for Five Chairs, 355 Pittsfield Road, was signed by The Five Chairs LLC. The business entity's registered agent and sole manager is Mannarelli.
When asked about Five Chairs' future, Vahle said, "It's closed. I've got to get the tenant out first, and that's the problem."
Vahle directed questions about why Five Chairs closed over the spring to Mannarelli, who moved from Miami Beach, Fla., to Lenox last year.
The lawsuit is being heard by Judge John McKenna.
In an email interview with The Eagle, Mannarelli, who is CEO of Rooster Entertainment, aka NYC Rooster LLC, a developer of New York City-based craft beer bars and gay nightlife establishments, asserted that he is not the tenant.
"You would have to ask them what their motivations were to bring that case against me," he said of Vahle and his attorney, Kenneth Ferris.
"To me this falls into the classification of no good deed goes unpunished," Mannarelli added before declining to comment further.
In 2018, Mannarelli took on management of Five Chairs. added pizza and 18 varieties of craft beer on a self-serve tap to the roadhouse. In January, Five Chairs opened for most nights and weekends. Mannarelli said he had plans to open seven days a week until 1 a.m., according to an Eagle article from the time.
It's not clear when exactly The Five Chairs closed again, but Mannarelli said the final day was sometime in late March.
"We were not able to staff the right people needed to run the business in the manner we wanted nor to succeed at developing a large enough audience to sustain the business in that manner," Mannarelli said. When it was clear to him that the restaurant wasn't working, Mannarelli said he looked into alternative uses for the property, but the future of the property is up to Vahle.
In court documents, Vahle said that Mannarelli allegedly did not pay rent, January-June, and owes $45,000 in back rent. Vahle also alleges that Mannarelli did not pay real estate taxes ($1,459) or electric charges ($5,013) for a total of $51,473 in damages.
Jazu Stine, Five Chairs chef under Mannarelli, said it's disappointing that The Five Chairs wasn't able to succeed. Stine quit the restaurant a few weeks after it re-opened. He and Mannarelli had differing views on what it would take to make the restaurant popular and profitable, Stine said.
"It seemed like he had a good plan at the start," he said of Mannarelli. "It's really unfortunate. The place is all ready to go, it just needs a dedicated team."-
Kristin Palpini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @kristinpalpini.
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