This week KELOLAND News has learned of a criminal investigation into the Copper Lounge Building Collapse.
The building was demolished after it came down and so was the Eastwold Smoke Shop just to the east of it.
But the owner of Eastwold now says his business should never have come down along with the Copper Lounge.
Tim Kant was the original owner of the Copper Lounge and Eastwold Smoke Shop and in 2015, he sold the property to Norm Drake of Legacy Developments.
Then Kant turned around and signed a 10-year lease with Legacy to continue to run the smoke shop business.
Kant now claims that after the building collapse, nothing was structurally wrong with the Eastwold Smoke Shop, which was actually built 20 years after the Copper Lounge building.
And Kant says Legacy violated the terms of his lease by tearing everything down.
Tim Kant says the move a block and a half down the street from the location where Eastwold Smoke Shop had been for 65 years has had a huge negative impact.
"Our business is down probably 40 percent and it never fluctuated at the old location--maybe one or two percent a year," Kant said.
Kant believes the move never really had to happen because he says there was no reason to tear Eastwold down.
"Absolutely nothing; it was dirty from the dust and stuff. But probably within a week we could have had the building cleaned up," Kant said.
Our KELOLAND News video taken after the December 2016 collapse shows Eastwold still standing. Kant says that's because it was an entirely separate building. He also provided KELOLAND Investigates with pictures he took inside the shop when he and others went back in to clear out merchandise.
"We're just shocked there was not damage to this building. The only thing we found and it wasn't even under Eastwold, it was under the Copper Lounge--a couple of cracked beams--that's all," Kant said.
Kant says he couldn't believe how quickly the building was demolished; in fact he says he only had four hours to remove $70,000 worth of merchandise.
"It happened December 2. They were tearing the building down on the 9th already, which was seven days later," Kant said.
On December 12, KELOLAND Investigates reported that the Copper Lounge and Eastwold Smoke Shop were being taken down before the investigation into the building collapse was complete and that it was a decision made by the City of Sioux Falls for the safety of the public.
We were told the collapsed wall was putting pressure on the PAve building and the concern was that even more damage could be done.
But Eastwold was not next to PAve.
Kennecke: You've never gotten a letter, any official thing that said that building was unsafe?
Kant: Nope, nothing--absolutely nothing.
Kant says that violated the terms of his lease. He provided us with this copy which says the Landlord, or Legacy, was supposed to repair or restore the premises. If the building was 75 percent destroyed Legacy could terminate the lease with written notice to the tenant, Kant, within 15 days after the destruction.
"They not only didn't tell me it wasn't inhabitable--they started tearing the building down nine days later when I had a 15-day clause in there that that they had to give me notice to do that," Kant said.
KELOLAND Investigates asked both the City and Norm Drake of Legacy Developments for an engineering or inspector's report on Eastwold that details the damage to the building and for any proof Kant was given notice, but it was not provided.
The only thing the City would give us is this razing permit, issued five days after the collapse which only says "raze building that had partially fallen down."
Kant believes that Eastwold was torn down because Lewis Drug originally also wanted that space for its new store.
"Now we're going to see if we can possibly stop construction over there just to if nothing else get somebody's attention that we're serious and it's been a year now and nobody is saying anything to us. It's just a bad deal all the way around and nobody wants to take any responsibility," Kant said.
We reached out to both Norm Drake of Legacy Developments and his attorney for this story, but we did not get a response. Kant says they have agreed to arbitration on the matter. We'll follow this story and let you know what happens.
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