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Restaurant owner looks for support as city continues with legal action

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A restauranteur is hoping to garner support from diners as the city of Morganton moves forward with legal proceedings to have him vacate the city-owned property where his business has operated for the last several years.

Bella Vino owner Emmanuel Manolakas was informed by letter Jan. 4 his lease for the restaurant at 112 W. Union St. was up and he needed to vacate the property, according to a Jan. 8 News Herald article.

On Friday, the city of Morganton filed a summary ejectment complaint against Manolakas, asking the court to order Manolakas to vacate the property.

The city held in the filing that Manolakas’ lease ended Dec. 31, and that he was informed before the lease ended it would not be renewed or extended.

A copy of the lease agreement between Manolakas and the city does allow for an automatic renewal of the lease if all terms were met, but the city said the lease already was breached in 2020 when he got behind in rent and utility payments.

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The city also previously said it didn’t want to renew the lease because it didn’t think Bella Vino brought in enough business to be considered a driver of economic development, which is what it intended for the building to serve as when it was purchased in the 1990s.

In the Friday filing, the city also claimed Manolakas removed and threw away window coverings from the upstairs deck of the business, and said more than $1,000 in damages had been done to the property.

Manolakas didn’t respond to The News Herald’s request for comment for the Jan. 8 story, but he sent an email this week with a statement on the issue.

He claims the city is trying to change the terms of his contract, and said the city’s actions are “despicable.”

“After struggling through hard times, we’re thankful that this community appreciates a family friendly restaurant serving Italian And (sic) Greek food made with love,” Manolakas said in a written statement to The News Herald.

Manolakas has said he plans to hash it out in the courtroom.

“Bella Vino will work with our legal counsel to prove that the lease was properly renewed, and prove through the courts that our beloved restaurant should remain a fixture for many years to come,” Manolakas said in his statement.

He also encouraged other business owners to pay attention to the city’s actions, “so the City won’t do the same thing to you,” he said.

But Bella Vino is the only business in the city of Morganton that rents its building from the city, Morganton officials said.

The city’s filing isn’t the only legal action against Manolakas.

As reported Jan. 8, the North Carolina Department of Revenue filed certificates of tax liability against him, saying he owed more than $55,000 in back sales tax.

Manolakas told The News Herald this week he had worked out an arrangement with the NCDOR to pay the amount owed.

He started a petition on this week, asking customers to show their support for the business in an apparent attempt to sway the city to renew the lease. There were 125 signatures on the petition Saturday morning.

“We’re ready to feed our loyal customers and ask for your continued support,” Manolakas said in a statement to The News Herald and in the description of the petition.

The issue is due in court Jan. 24. The city is asking for rent and interest up to the day a judgement is entered, along with reimbursement for damage done to the building and court costs.

The U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in December, the slowest monthly job growth of the year but still beating expectations. Unemployment dropped to 3.5%.

Chrissy Murphy is a staff writer and can be reached at or at 828-432-8941. Follow @cmurphyMNH on Twitter.

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