Rick's Steaks owner sues over ouster from market

The owner of Rick's Steaks, which has lost its lease at Reading Terminal Market, announced yesterday that he was taking his beef with the market's management to court.

Rick Olivieri filed for a temporary restraining order aimed at keeping the market's management from forcing Rick's Steaks to leave when his lease expires today, according to his lawyer, Bill Harvey. Harvey added in an interview that there were also "damages sought in excess of $75,000."

The complaint, filed in Common Pleas Court, names Ricardo Dunston, chairman of the Reading Terminal Market Corp.; Paul Steinke, the market's general manager; and Tony Luke, owner of the restaurant set to replace Rick's.

The market board decided last month not to renew Olivieri's lease. It said Luke would bring a more prominent face to the market. Olivieri's restaurant has been in the market for 25 years.

"I think this is definitely personal," said Olivieri, who claims the board is evicting him because he vocally opposed new lease terms while he was president of the Reading Terminal Merchants Association. The disputed terms included extended workday hours and required reporting of monthly sales figures.

Market spokesman Kevin Feeley said Olivieri's legal complaint was nothing more than a public spectacle.

"It's unfortunate that Mr. Olivieri is putting his interests above those of Reading Terminal Market," Feeley said yesterday in a telephone interview.

The Amish merchants in Reading Terminal announced that in protest of the board's decision, the 19th annual Dutch Festival set for Aug. 8 through 11 was canceled.

David Esh, owner-operator of the Hatville Deli and a representative of the market's Amish merchants, said in a statement yesterday: "Dutch Fest is a celebration and, quite honestly, we are not in a mood to celebrate."

In addition, 5,000 customers signed a petition in support of Rick's Steaks in recent weeks, according to Olivieri.

Olivieri is a grandson of Pasquale "Pat" Olivieri, who is credited with inventing the Philadelphia cheesesteak with his brother, Harry, about 75 years ago.

Said Paul Mikta, 52, a weekly customer from Montgomery County: "It's just not right. They invented it, so how can they throw them out?"

Contact staff writer Katie Stuhldreher at 215-854-2601 or kstuhldreher@phillynews.com.