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A Westport Village uprising?

We created The Closing Bell last spring after we figured out staffers, contributors and insiders were sitting on too much news that couldn’t wait for the Monday Business Briefing. 

Since then, TCB has become one of our best-read features, because the news never stops — not even on Halloween.

Today we’ve got a whole slew of goodies for you to enjoy … and you didn’t even have to say “Trick or treat.”

Westport Village store owners file suit

Nearly two dozen tenants of Westport Village are suing Camelot Acquisition LLC, the holding company that owns the shopping center, accusing them of overcharging store owners for various fees while underperforming when it comes to property upkeep and management duties.

The shop owners claim mismanagement has resulted in decreased business and increased vacancies at the upscale East End shopping center.

In a complaint filed in Jefferson Circuit Court on Oct. 27, the tenants say Camelot’s failure to hire a local property manager has caused “unreasonable and excessive operating expenses and caused deficient property management.”

Until now, Westport Village has been widely considered a success; in 2004, local real estate developers Underhill Associates purchased the decrepit Camelot Shopping Center and transformed it into a thriving retail and restaurant hub.

The Underhills completed the project in June 2008, winning several awards for the project, which features mostly local businesses rather than national chains.

In February 2013, Underhill Associates sold controlling interest of Westport Village’s holding company — Camelot Acquisitions — to Inland American Real Estate Trust, based in Chicago, Ill.

That’s when things began going downhill, according to the complaint, which states:

•Although operating expenses significantly increased, the quality and quantity of Camelot/Inland’s management of Westport Village significantly declined.

•Marketing and maintenance efforts were poor, which significantly decreased traffic in Westport Village.

•Camelot/Inland’s poor management also significantly increased vacancies.

•Upon information and belief, there will be a vacancy rate of at least 17% (using storefronts, not square footage) as of November 2014.

Last month, Heine Brothers Coffee announced it would not be renewing its lease at Westport Village, where it will stop slinging lattes as of today. Apparently HBC isn’t alone. When Insider Louisville attempted to visit Westport Village’s website to verify the current number of tenants, we got this:

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The complaint filed in Circuit Court lists 22 stores, including Boutique Serendipity, Avanti Skin Center, Wild Eggs, Ghyslain Chocolatier, Bliss Nails and Organic Spa, Closets by Design, Hiko-A-Mon Sushi, Elements Massage, Westport Village Jewelry, and more. Attorney Joshua Rose, of Hummel Coan Miller Sage & Rose, is representing the plaintiffs.

There are 55 tenant spaces in Westport Village.

Camelot Acquisition had not responded to the complaint as of Thursday evening.

We’ll let you know as we learn more …