Legal battle brews over collapsed downtown building
HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. —
A day after the building home to Cheeburger Cheeburger and Ghost Tours came tumbling down, a business owner and the owner of his building are at odds.
The crumbled brick building remains strewn across the Market Street Sidewalk and both men are pointing the finger at each other over who should have been responsible for fixing the building's structural issues.
Cheeburger Cheeburger has been a market street staple since 1989.
The building it calls home has been on Chattanooga's riverfront for over a century.
Charlie Eich owns the burger and milkshake joint.
For Eich and his family, "this was it. This was our retirement. This was our kids' education. This was our families income."
Now, bricks, rubble, and an open facade are all that remains.
Eich still can't believe it.
"It's almost like I'm expecting to be on a reality show that this is just a joke, that Ashton Kutcher is going to come out and say I've been punked," Eich told NewsChannel 9 on Thursday.
Eich rents his storefront from George Walls.
Eich said Walls "has known for years that the builidng was separating.
Dallas Rucker is the director of the land and development office.
He knew about the structural problems as well.
"We'd received a letter from them that there were some repairs that needed to be made," said Rucker.
Eich noticed bricks crumbling off of the wall on Tuesday night.
He decided to close his business on Wednesday for safety concerns "so nobody was in the building, thank god, and nobody was in front of it, thank god," he said.
Before the building collapsed, Eich was figuring out how to fix the separation without the help of the buildings owner.
Three weeks ago, Eich says walls sent him "a certified letter saying he wasn't going to fix it, it was my responsibility."
Eich was prepared to pay out of pocket for the repairs.
We reached out to Walls for his side of the story but he had no comment.
Amy Petulla was also a tenant of Walls.
She owned Ghost Tours next door.
Petulla said the two "got along well because I never asked anything of him."
Although she did recall one incident awhile back "a window that had cracked and I spoke to the landlord about it and he had no interest in fixing it," Petulla said.
Petulla is still in business and is now meeting clients outside but says she is "running around like a chicken with my head cutoff trying to organize things."
Eich believes that as the building's owner, Walls was responsible for fixing the problems.
"He's had a lot of opportunity to correct it and the building wouldn't be laying in rubble right now and I would still own it and I would still have 25 people working for us if he had acted," said Eich.