HIGHLANDS, NJ – When Dina and Scott Wolfe, husband and wife, opened their restaurant in April of 2010, they never expected that a year later they would be embroiled in a legal battle with their landlord desperately fighting to save their family business from being demolished to make way for a Quick Chek convenience store and gas station. The Wolfes proudly own and operate The Dawg House Restaurant located at 440 State Route 36 in Highlands New Jersey. The Dawg House serves signature foot long hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, and Italian ice.

The Wolfe family, owners of the Dawg House, fight to save their business.

In 2008, Mr. Wolfe was laid off as a union carpenter. With no available construction work, Mr. Wolfe happened across a vacant building for lease on the northbound side of State Route 36. He had a vision to establish a unique eatery that would offer a creative menu and cater to Sandy Hook beachgoers. He also had a vision of a pet-friendly restaurant where customers could bring their own “dawgs.” After Mrs. Wolfe entered into a lease with Colony Management Company, LLC of Paterson, NJ, Mr. Wolfe spent the next 8 months and upwards of $80,000 renovating the restaurant – even selling his new pick up truck and cashing in his annuity to finance the project. Mr. Wolfe explains that, “In a terrible economy, I took a leap of faith to provide a better life for my family.”

Since its opening, the Dawg House has developed a loyal following and a prosperous business. Ms. Wolfe states, “We have an established and growing business because we treat our customers like family.” As the Wolfes grew their business, they never expected that their landlord would contract to sell the property to Quick Chek and cut Mrs. Wolfe’s lease short. They also never anticipated that their landlord would attempt to evict the Dawg House to make way for a gas station and convenience store, an ambitious project that has met with staunch local opposition.   Mr. Wolfe explains that “This is a struggle of David versus Goliath. We have put our blood, sweat, and tears into this restaurant to provide for our young children.”

In a complaint filed in Monmouth County Superior Court, Dina Wolfe has leveled a number of serious allegations against the Dawg House’s landlord including breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty. By way of Complaint, Ms. Wolfe has demanded monetary damages, punitive damages, and specific performance of her agreements with the landlord. Mrs. Wolfe is represented by Christian V. McOmber, an attorney with the firm of McOmber & McOmber, P.C. in Red Bank, New Jersey.

“Essentially, Ms. Wolfe alleges that the landlord expressly agreed it would always give the Dawg House two years notice if and when the property was sold,” says Mr. McOmber. Mr. McOmber further adds, “Mrs. Wolfe also alleges that the landlord reneged on its express agreements and that the landlord’s present efforts to evict the Dawg House are unlawful and will cause a total loss of the business. One interesting aspect of this case is that the Wolfes made extensive tape recordings of their discussions with the landlord which substantiate Ms. Wolfe’s allegations,” says Mr. McOmber.

Mr. Wolfe explains that “We are not going down without a fight. We intend to hold the landlord to his agreements. We are not just going to roll over for the landlord and Quick Chek.”

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...