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RED BANK: BOTTLES BY SICKLES EVICTED

Bottles by Sickles at the Anderson Building on Monmouth Street Wednesday morning. (Photo by Brian Donohue. Click to enlarge.)

By BRIAN DONOHUE and JOHN T. WARD

A stunning cascade of business failures appeared to reach its conclusion with the abrupt shutdown of a Red Bank liquor store owned by Sickles Market this week.

Bottles by Sickles opened along with a grab-and-go Sickles Market in the refurbished Anderson Building in August, 2020. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Bottles by Sickles, which occupied 3,100 square feet in the Anderson Building, at 200 Monmouth Street, was closed Monday, as first reported by the Asbury Park Press.

The shutdown followed an April 5 order from Superior Court in Freehold allowing landlord Metrovation Inc. to lock out the operators of the shop.

No one from Little Silver-based Sickles Market, shop’s parent, appeared in court to contest the move, according to the order.

As of Wednesday morning, a handwritten note saying “Closed Today’ remained taped to the entry of the shop, which appeared to be stocked with merchandise.

Metrovation says it is owed $329,000 in unpaid rent for the Bottles space as well as the 8,500-square-foot market in the same building that Sickles abruptly shut down February 15, after a three-and-a-half-year run.

Less than four weeks later, the the 116-year-old farm-based market in Little Silver suffered the same fate, sending shock waves among customers who saw it as a thriving operation.

Company owner Bob Sickles Jr. has not responded to redbankgreen requests for comment. In February, he blamed the closing of the Red Bank grocery store on “repercussions from the pandemic.”

In recent weeks, lawsuits against the business and its owners have begun piling up in state and federal court. They include a demand a $298,000 suit by Farmlind Produce; a Holiday Meats claim for $117,000; and an Elizabeth-based supplier, Performance Foods, seeking $100,000.

On Tuesday, two more vendors filed suits: World’s Best Cheeses, of Armonk, New York, seeking payment of $31,450, and Food Merchants LLC, of Brooklyn, for $8,700.

Separately, a six-month-old New York City fruit vendor owned by two cousins claimed to redbankgreen that it was stiffed for $26,000 after just five weeks doing business with Sickles.

Also pending is a claim by Kathleen O’Brien, of Monmouth Beach, who said in a lawsuit that she paid a discounted $2,600 for a $3,000 gift card in January, intending it to cover “the approximate amount I spend in the defendant’s store over the course of the year.” She only got to spend $68.11 before Sickles went under.

The market, she wrote in a letter accompanying her filing, “was on the verge of collapse” when it sold her the card. “This was not public information, though the defendant knew it, or should have known.”

Sickles has not responded to O’Brien’s suit, which is scheduled for trial May 31.

As of Wednesday, Sickles and its affiliated companies had not filed for federal bankruptcy court protection from creditors.

The Red Bank grab-and-go food store opened in August, 2020, five months into a COVID-19 pandemic, and served as the first-floor anchor of the Anderson Building, a circa-1909 warehouse that had been vacant for at least 25 years before it was refurbished by Metrovation.

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