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Jury serves up split decision on Silver Top Diner

October 12, 2012

Tucked behind a chain-link fence on Middle Street in Pawtucket, the former Silver Top Diner is wrapped in a tarp as it awaits its next destination. The Silver Top Diner was located at 13 Harris Ave. in Providence before being moved to Middle Street in Pawtucket in 2001. Photo/Ernest A. Brown

PAWTUCKET — In a legal case that has dragged on for years, a Superior Court jury on Wednesday finally dished up portions of a financial pie to the owner of the legendary Silver Top Diner and the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency.
Yet, a decision on who gets to keep the historic diner, built in 1937 by the Kullman Diner Company of New Jersey, awaits a ruling. Superior Court Justice Kristin Rodgers is scheduled to take this matter up on Oct. 26.
The case is a complicated one which dates back to 2007, when the quasi-city Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency (PRA) filed a lawsuit against diner owner Patricia Brown charging that Brown failed to meet the terms of the agreement under which the agency loaned her $100,000—essentially by failing to get the diner up and running. As such, PRA was seeking to recoup $52,878, plus interest and other costs, that Brown spent on relocating the diner to Pawtucket.
Brown, of Johnston, filed a counterclaim, maintaining that PRA officials misinformed her on certain issues and failed to keep promises about advising her throughout the diner's relocation and re-opening process. A cook and waitress by trade, she said she had been upfront with the PRA about her lack of experience in such matters as writing a business plan, obtaining financing or overseeing construction work.
The case had been substantially delayed after Brown's original attorney, who had been handling it pro bono, passed away in 2008. Brown eventually found representation through Providence attorney Arthur Chatfield, who also agreed to take on the case for free. Pawtucket lawyer Kevin Horan, the longtime attorney for the PRA, handled the case for the agency in the recent court proceedings.

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