Persephone West

Persephone in the Westbank Center. The restaurant’s new location is involved in a dispute with Teton Pines, which wants dinner off the menu at its new neighbor.

Anybody who has siblings has fought with them over dinner. It’s less common to argue with your neighbors over food.

Still, the West Bank’s Teton Pines country club has contested the ability of its neighbor — Persephone’s new storefront in the Westbank Center — to serve dinner, something the restaurant’s owners, Ali and Kevin Cohane, planned to do when the new location opened June 1. So far the Pines’ opposition has kept the new restaurant from doing so.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Ali Cohane said. “We had intended for July 1, at the latest.”

But while the Cohanes’ new storefront has borne the brunt of Teton Pines’ opposition, Persephone is not the only party involved in the dispute. The Cohanes lease their new restaurant space from Miller Ventures L.P., a company that owns two of five lots in the Teton Pines Commercial Area. That zone is designated for commercial use by the Teton County Board of County Commissioners. A covenant signed in 1997 gave Teton Pines, which is neither a signatory on the document nor an owner of one of the lots, the right to approve, in writing, the establishment of any “fine dining restaurant and bar” on those five lots.

In a May 21 email Chris Hawks, an attorney retained by The Pines, refused Miller Ventures’ request to allow Persephone, its tenant, to open for dinner. He noted that, under the terms of its lease with Miller Ventures, the restaurant’s “permitted use” was only for breakfast and lunch. Cohane said Persephone and its landlord are amending the lease to allow for dinner.

But Hawks’ email went further. He requested Persephone revise its breakfast and lunch options and shut down every day at 3 p.m. His email also stated the Pines’ opposition to the Cohane’s wish to sell “spirits” in addition to beer and wine.

But the Pines’ rejection didn’t put the dispute to bed.

“We were trying to come to an amicable solution, and the Pines came back to us with a list of demands that are unacceptable,” Cohane said. “We’re no longer going to find that amicable solution.”

Hawks and Erika Nash, counsel for Miller Ventures, declined to comment for this article.

Persephone volleyed back on May 28, when four of the five lot owners in the commercial area voted to amend the covenant, an action that appears consistent with their rights under the agreement. That document allows its terms to be changed if 80% of the owners sign off on the change.

The owners did so, striking the clause giving the Pines the right to approve any new fine dining establishment from the original covenant.

With the covenant amended, Persephone went forward with its liquor license application, which the commissioners approved unanimously in a June 4 meeting, despite a public comment from Hawks in opposition.

That comment, which was delivered in a May 29 email, spelled out the Pines’ opposition to Persephone’s dinner operations, and contained Hawks’ May 21 email rejecting Miller Ventures’ request, as well as the 1997 covenant.

With the covenant amended and a liquor license in hand, Cohane still plans to open for dinner. On Friday she said that Persephone would announce this week its plans to open Aug. 1.

“We’ve been in limbo for so long,” Cohane said.

Cohane said the Pines is still opposing Persephone’s plans to open for dinner.

The Pines now has the option to seek an injunction to prevent Persephone from opening. If it does so the dispute may have to be resolved in the courts. In his communication to the commission, Hawks said the Pines would “take all actions necessary” to enforce its rights.

In his email to Miller Ventures’ counsel, Hawks also spelled out what appeared to be the primary reason for the Pines’ opposition to Persephone’s operations: competition.

The Pines is flanked by Calico as well as the old Stiegler’s and Roadhouse locations, all of which possess full liquor licenses. The country club expects Stiegler’s and Roadhouse to reopen. Hawks noted that Teton Pines has “no control over those operations,” making “their rights under the restrictive covenant all the more important.”

He also said Teton Pines approved other restaurants that have operated or continue to operate in the commercial area — Starbucks, Elevated Grounds, Butter, Subway and Sudachi — because they “were not perceived as being directly competitive with Teton Pines.”

Like Persephone, Sudachi has a liquor license. It also remains open until 9:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, six hours past the time The Pines requested Persephone close.

In Hawks’ letter to Miller Ventures, he expressed his belief that the covenants “have all been uniformly enforced since inception.”

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7062 or entertainment@jhnewsandguide.com.

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(9) comments

Raz Reinecke

With all the great foods offered at area's restaurants, the business strategy of killing the competition's chance by preventing them from opening has passed. The fact is that Teton Pines has an outdated style and the menu is outdated, too. The people who eat at Persephone are not going to be interested in dining at Teton Pines. Get with the times, the culinary revolution has overtaken JH! Instead of spending money on lawyers and legal battle, update your style and get a good chef to cook up food that can entice today's restaurant goers.

Ed Sanden

Juicy story, but first of all, who eats at the Pines anyway? Most people assume it's for members. Maybe some advertising would help. If the members don't even eat there however, then the food and service must be abominable. It's hard to imagine a more self-disparaging action on behalf of the Pines! Petty, small minded, and definitely NOT an enhancement to reputation. Whatever is driving this dispute reflects brain damage, a dying club, or else this is shamefully personal. Regardless, the whole matter is an outdated contractual notion to protect long ago capital investment in outdated times of scarce traffic and it's an embarrassment to community and neighbors today.

Raz Reinecke

We ate there once. Not bad but with all the great food options in JH, it would be a rare day we would want to go back. And if they keep on harassing potential competition, we are banning them.

Gregory Miles

Sadly my respect for the Pines has diminished. The Pine’s entire attitude towards this move smacks of “good old boy” protectionism. What’s to fear from a little competition? More choices means more options, more options will lead to more people visiting the area. My guess is they’ll keep up the fight. This may fuel boycotts and actually hurt their business .

Raz Reinecke

Precisely my sentiments. Boycotts are coming next if Teton Pines continues to persist.

Geoff Gottlieb

The Pines is being petty and stupid. Having a better selection of good quality eateries on the West Bank makes it a more popular dining destination, and actually increases every restaurant’s business

Raz Reinecke

Good point!

Jean Reiland

If the dinners at the Pines are good, why worry about competition?

Raz Reinecke

Right on!

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