Mark Shaker, the developer behind Stanley Marketplace and several other local food halls, has been accused by a business partner in court of self-dealing at a Golden hall.
The Golden Mill, a former Civil War-era flour mill and feed store, opened as a food hall in April 2021. It was co-managed then by Shaker and Don Martin, a co-owner of the property.
The hall has housed five restaurants since it opened. Shaker, as a day-to-day manager, chose the five and signed contracts with them, according to court documents.
What he didn’t do is disclose that he co-owns three of the five, a lawsuit by Martin alleges.
The result, according to that lawsuit, was a sweetheart deal. Rather than a $7,500 security deposit, Shaker’s restaurants paid $2,500. Rather than require each restaurant to sell $1 million annually, as the two remaining stalls must, the contracts required a combined $1 million from the three, Martin claims.
The three-year contracts, signed by Shaker, also allow the restaurants, rather than the food hall, to decide whether they should be extended for an additional six years. And Golden Mill can’t, by contract, evict one restaurant without evicting all three, the Feb. 24 lawsuit alleges.
“All the self-dealing terms and conditions negotiated by Mr. Shaker for the benefit of (his restaurants) are non-commercial terms that would not have been included in the license or in other food vendor licenses had Mr. Shaker been properly negotiating,” it states.
Shaker was removed as a co-manager of Golden Mill in June 2022, according to the lawsuit by Martin, who is now asking Denver District Court Judge Eric Elliff to declare the contracts between Golden Mill and Shaker’s restaurants void and unenforceable.
In addition to Aurora’s Stanley Marketplace, Shaker also developed the now-defunct Broadway Market in Denver and plans to create Westminster Alley in Westminster. His attorney, Michael Murray with the Denver firm Davis & Ceriani, said the allegations against him and his restaurant company are false.
Murray sent BusinessDen a Jan. 26 letter that he emailed lawyers for Martin. In it, Murray says Martin and other Golden Mill partners knew full well that Shaker co-owned the three restaurants. And Murray claims it is “false and defamatory” for Martin to suggest the contracts between the food hall and the restaurants unfairly benefit Shaker’s company.
Voiding those agreements would have a “substantial financial impact” on the food hall, Murray wrote. He said the three have surpassed revenue expectations and requirements, collectively bringing in $253,000 monthly and paying $1.2 million to the Golden Mill in rent to date.
Martin, through his company Golden Mill OPS, is represented by Denver attorneys Janette Ferguson and Jessica Marsh with the firm Williams Weese Pepple & Ferguson. They declined to comment on what the legal dispute will mean for the Golden Mill going forward.
In an unrelated case, Shaker is being sued by Shamrock Foods for allegedly buying $29,000 in food and not paying for it. That case, filed Nov. 1, has not moved ahead because Shamrock has not been able to find Shaker and serve him the lawsuit, court documents say.
A similar scenario played out last March, when Shamrock sued Shaker and Broadway Market for not paying for food. A Denver judge ordered the market to pay $17,000 to Shamrock and garnished its bank account. But Shaker couldn’t be found or served the lawsuit.
The financial collapse of Broadway Market — it opened in 2019 at 950 Broadway and closed in 2020 — is the subject of two other ongoing legal cases. MidWestOne Bank, which lent nearly $1 million to Shaker and two other developers, sued last fall after it wasn’t repaid. Shaker has said that he repaid 40 percent of the loan, more than he was required to pay.
Shaker also sued co-developers Brad Arguello and Christopher Haugen in September 2021, alleging that he kept Broadway Market operating and financially stable while the others did nothing, but Shaker dropped that lawsuit in December 2022. Arguello and Haugen are now asking a Denver judge to make Shaker pay their attorney fees.