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Santoni’s facing more legal woes

Santoni’s Super Market might have closed its doors last month, but it remains open to litigation.

Robert N. Santoni Jr. had said that other local grocers were showing interest in taking over on the site of his closed store.

The latest lawsuit against the former Highlandtown institution comes from The Harbor Bank of Maryland, which is seeking more than $1.5 million from the grocer for an unpaid loan.

Harbor Bank extended a $1.725 million commercial loan to Santoni’s in 2005, according to the complaint filed Monday in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Harbor Bank seeks a confessed judgment that includes $1.49 million in unpaid principal balance and more than $19,000 in unpaid interest, according to the filing.

The action comes on the heels of the grocer’s landlord receiving a judgment for possession of the property, a judgment that has been stayed by consent until the end of the month. BSV Highlandtown LLC sought approximately $150,000 in unpaid rent from the grocer, according to a lawsuit filed in October in Maryland District Court in Baltimore.

The grocer also agreed to pay a produce vendor $115,000 last month to settle a federal lawsuit over unpaid bills. That amount has been paid, according to Blake A. Surbey of McCarron & Diess in Washington, D.C., the attorney for Jessup-based G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc.

Michael S. Myers, a lawyer for Santoni’s, declined to comment on the Harbor Bank lawsuit or any other litigation against the grocer.

Santoni’s closed last month after 83 years in business. While the recession and competition had taken their toll, Robert N. Santoni Jr. cited the city’s bottle tax as the primary reason. Santoni had opposed the imposition of the tax as well as its recent increase from 2 cents to 5 cents per bottle, saying it would drive clients to the county

Myers, of Scarlett & Croll P.A. in Baltimore, said Santoni’s now is operating only to the extent needed to wind down the business.

Robert N. Santoni Jr. could not be reached for comment Monday. [Update: See note, below.] Santoni said last month that his family was working with BSV to find a new tenant and that there has been “a lot of interest” from local grocers.

The Highlandtown grocery store is a wholly separate entity from Santoni’s Marketplace and Catering of Glyndon, which is owned by another family member.

Editor’s note: In an email received after our print deadline Monday night, Robert Santoni Jr. said:

The loan has always been paid on time and was never in default over the 5 1/2 years it’s been in place. The bank is working with us as we work to sell the business and place a new tenant in the space. The bank is protecting their interest as is prudent, but it is best for everyone if we all work together to ensure a smooth transition. It just makes sense. As a side note, the amount they are claiming is substantially more than the actual principal balance.