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Boiling Over

Captain Buzzy’s lawsuit accuses neighbor of ulterior motives in efforts to block his special-use permit -- a shop of his own.


Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Kimberly Chen was convicted of a misdemeanor assault charge against Bob Buffington. That charge was dropped in June after an appeal.

Correction:Church Hill neighbor Amy Beem, originally named in Buffington's suit, has since been dropped.

While a group of Church Hill residents fought off a coffee shop’s attempt to sell beer and wine last year by saying it would disturb the neighborhood, the owner now says one of those residents was looking to do the same thing all along.

Captain Buzzy’s Beanery owner Bob Buffington, who sued four neighbors in December over their efforts to block a special use permit, filed an amended lawsuit today alleging that neighbor John Whitworth's attempts to scuttle Buffington’s plans were more about business than neighborhood peace.

Hayden Fisher, a lawyer for Buffington, says the complaint outlines several attempts to undercut Buffington. They include:

- Bidding on property a block away with a similar layout to Buzzy’s;

- Becoming a partner in a business nearby that would sell coffee and beer;

- Telling Buffington’s landlord to replace Buzzy’s with a coffee shop owned by Whitworth, which he said would sell “real baked goods.”

All of this occurred before the City Council denied Buffington’s special use permit request in October, according to the lawsuit. It also says Whitworth was outbid in his attempt to buy the nearby property back in April, and then ramped up efforts to turn locals and City Council against Buffington’s application.

“It shows the level of deviousness,” Fisher says.

Reached by Style, Whitworth says he hasn't been informed of the amended complaint and declines further comment.

Two other neighbors, Kimberly Chen and Karen Jones , also are named in the lawsuit as having used the Church Hill Association as a weapon against Buffington. Chen also had faced a misdemeanor assault conviction from an alleged incident in which she threw a flower pot at Buffington, but a judge dropped the charges in June on appeal.

The attorneys for the defendants couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

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