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Crystal Restaurant owners threatened with eviction

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WATERTOWN — After 89 years, the Crystal Restaurant may soon be forced out of its longtime Public Square location.

Landlord Ricky Frazier notified Libby S. and Peter J. Dephtereos, the owners of the city’s iconic restaurant, that they were being evicted at the end of this month.

Mr. Frazier said he was forced to evict them because they have failed to sign a lease for the 1,700-square-foot restaurant. Mr. Frazier said he offered the couple a five-year lease and told them he would have to be added to their fire insurance.

Mr. Frazier said that at first, he wanted to work with the Dephtereoses. Later he grew apathetic.

“I don’t dislike them,” he said. “I don’t think icons are important, and people don’t have values any more. I just don’t care.”

Saying the eviction notice surprised them, the restaurateurs said they want to stay in their location.

“I am comfortable something can be worked out,” Mr. Dephtereos said.

Once the 30-day notification is over, Mr. Frazier said, he would file the necessary paperwork in Watertown City Court to start the legal process for the eviction.

Mr. Frazier purchased the building at 85-87 Public Square in January 2013 for $125,000 from Public Square Properties LLC, a Long Island corporation, after the Dephtereoses had hoped to acquire it.

Considered a Watertown landmark, the Crystal is known for its meatloaf lunch special, turkey sandwiches, inexpensive dinner menu, seasonal Tom and Jerry rum-and-brandy concoction and its aged wooden booths. A sign in its front window reads, “The oldest established restaurant in Watertown.”

The Dephtereoses last talked to Mr. Frazier two weeks ago, when they were told to come up with the terms for the lease on their own. Before the eviction notice arrived, Mr. Dephtereos insisted that Mr. Frazier “never came to us to talk to us about it and never said a word.”

If they are forced out, their move could be as close as an adjoining building. Peter’s father, Joseph Dephtereos, owns the three-story building next door at 81 Public Square. The family has restored its facade and is renovating the upstairs into apartments at the vacant structure. Until now, no plans have been made for its storefront.

“It’s an option,” Mr. Dephtereos said. “We’re looking at all options.”

The ownership of the restaurant’s vintage contents — the decorative mirrors, mahogany booths, lengthy bar and other original furnishings — may come into legal question. The Dephtereoses said the furnishings belong to them.

Before Mr. Frazier bought the building, the Dephtereoses thought they had a deal to purchase the building. The sale was never consummated.

Mr. Dephtereos, a third-generation restaurateur, said he believes the issue has somehow become entangled with Mr. Frazier’s legal trouble with the city of Watertown. The matter involves a $72,926.94 judgment against the landlord for failing to pay the cleanup costs on a High Street apartment building destroyed by fire in May 2012.

Mr. Dephtereos said the eviction notice came just two weeks after the state Supreme Court instructed the couple to send their rent checks to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department to help pay off the judgment. Mr. Frazier’s other tenants also send rent checks to the sheriff’s department, he said.

The apartment building he owned at 239 High St. was torched by an arsonist. The city demolished it and charged Mr. Frazier for the cost of the work. Mr. Frazier never paid, and the city took legal action against him.

Mr. Frazier denied that the eviction is linked to his dispute with the city. At the end of the interview, he went into a tirade, blaming the city that he is losing rent from his tenants.




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