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'Boycott White Castle:' Businessman's legal dispute with White Castle

Posted at 4:30 PM, Oct 08, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — A man’s efforts to build up the east side, he says, have been on hold because of a legal dispute with a fast-food restaurant.

If you drive down Keystone Avenue, you might have seen signs to “Boycott White Castle.”

“I wanted to go back to my community similar to where I have been raised," James Leonard, who is a retired Army colonel, said. "This is a predominantly black neighborhood and instead of taking my money and going someplace else, I thought I could create opportunities right here. I never had to be in this kind of fight in my life. Again, I served 28 years in the army."

Leonard bought property near 38th Street and Keystone Avenue to convert to a self-storage business. The front of the property is intended to be used for food trucks to help other small businesses.

But he says he was unaware when he bought the property a year ago from Palmer Properties there was an easement on his land that belongs to White Castle to allow for a driveway.

“Palmer Properties signed a lease with White Castle that’s good until 2030 which I was not privy to,” Leonard said.

He’s been in a legal battle for the land ever since.

“When you convert a property to self storage, almost every inch counts," Lenoard said. "That part of my land in the back the 25‘ x 158 that White Castle is denying me the use of is a significant income loss, stream of income.”

“No one uses that easement anyway,” State Rep. John Bartlett, D-District 95, said. “They enter White Castle from Keystone or from 38th Street.”

Bartlett has since gotten involved.

“He’s an African-American male who legally purchased land and if you are injured on that land, his insurance has to cover you," Bartlett said. "He has to pay taxes on that land. Yet he cannot use that land."

“I don’t understand. It’s inconceivable to me on how they think it’s ok,” Leonard said.

“James Leonard is one of my constituents,” Bartlett said. “I feel that strongly about all my constituents. I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s right.”

“For us, the driveway is important because it’s access for our customers,” said Jamie Richardson, the vice president of White Castle. “But beyond that, it’s something we agreed to 25 years ago with the property owner.“

WRTV spoke with the vice president of White Castle via Zoom. He says they tried to negotiate with Leonard, but have had this easement agreement in place since 1995.

“For us it’s just a matter of we have to protect the jobs of our team members and their families and really do what’s right by them as well as being a good neighbor,” Richardson said. “We are proud to be part of Indianapolis, we’re thankful we get to sell hot and tasty sliders and hopefully get back to community in a way that matters.”

“We don’t care. Let’s just drown him out,” Lenoard said. “So in my opinion, I wish White Castle would take their knee off my neck. My economic neck ok? I’m absolutely fighting. And I don’t plan to stop fighting.”