The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.
DENYING THE PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
C. Peyton Barton, Jr. and Maine Avenue Seafood, Inc. ("the
plaintiffs") move the court for a preliminary injunction to
prevent the District of Columbia and its agents ("the District
defendants" or "the D.C. defendants") from entering into or
awarding any lease contracts for a waterside or land-based slot
at the Municipal Fish Wharf ("the Wharf").*fn1 Mr. Barton, a
commercial tenant, runs a seafood concession out of the Fish
Market Building at the Wharf, located at 1100 Maine Avenue, S.W.,
on the Southwest D.C. waterfront. He now asks the court to
prevent the District defendants from entering into any 30-year
leases with other commercial seafood vendors at the Wharf ("the
For the reasons that follow, the court will deny the
plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.
C. Peyton Barton, Jr. is the sole stockholder of Maine Avenue
Seafood, Inc. ("MAS"), a business that sells cooked and fresh
seafood at the Wharf, located at 1100 Maine Avenue, S.W., on the
Southwest waterfront. See First Am. Compl. ("Compl.") at 3. Mr.
Barton leases a land-based location from the District at the
Wharf consisting of a small building (the Fish Market Building)
and parking area. See id. at 4. The United States government
owns the Wharf, and the District manages the area. See id.
In 1996, Mr. Barton, purchased the assets of Morgan Seafood, a
bankrupt concessionaire, resulting in the assignment to him of
two lease agreements for a land-based location at the Wharf.
See Mot. for P.I. at 4. Mr. Barton states that the District
recognized the assignments. See id.
The assignments Mr. Barton received were part of a joint lease
with other Wharf vendors. See Wharf Defs.' Opp'n to Mot. for
P.I. ("Wharf Defs.' Opp'n") at 5. Since the joint lease expired
in 1996, all of the concessionaires — including the plaintiffs —
have operated in their same locations under month-to-month
leases. See id. In their opposition, the Wharf defendants say
they have been negotiating for a new long-term lease with the
District since 1995, and that they focused their negotiations on
the prospect of a new 30-year lease in late 1998. See id.
The record in this case exposes a long history of hostility
between the plaintiffs and some of the Wharf defendants. Mr.
Barton believes the animosity started in 1996 when he
successfully bid to acquire the assets of Morgan Seafood, beating
out Mr. Billy White, one of the Wharf defendants and a co-owner
of B.R.W., Inc. Mr. Barton's First Amended Complaint underscores
the history of ill will at the Wharf:
There are 16 commercial vending locations at the
Wharf, each of which is properly considered a
concession granted by the District. These concessions
are jealously guarded by the current vendors, and in
recent years there has been a consolidation of
ownership of those businesses. Today, defendant
B.R.W., Inc. ("BRW") is by far the largest and most
powerful concessionaire. . . . The BRW defendants,
who have long boasted of their political and economic
prowess, are known for their predatory and aggressive
competitive practices in this government-controlled
outdoor market place. . . . There are but five
concessionaires: the BRW defendants; the Evans
Family; an unrelated family with the name Evans;
Edwards and Jones; and Barton.
Barton became a concessionaire in 1996 when he beat
out the BRW defendants for purchase of a defunct
Wharf concessionaire. Ever since that time, the BRW
defendants have tried to put Barton out of business,
no holds barred, in order to monopolize the fried
cooked seafood market at the Wharf where Barton is
their only competitor.
Compl. at 4-5. In addition, the plaintiffs mention the Wharf
defendants' "hatred for Barton" as a motivating factor in their
alleged desire to destroy Mr. Barton's business. See Mot. for
P.I. at 2.
The Wharf defendants respond in kind. Indeed, they open the
"Factual Background" section of their opposition to the
plaintiffs' motion with the following salvo: "This is not the
first frivolous position that Barton has taken in this Court with
regard to a Wharf lease between the District and
the Wharf Defendants." Wharf Defs.' Opp'n to Mot. for P.I. at 4.
The roots of the current dispute can be traced to a provision
in the Congressional Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 1999.
See Pub.L. No. 105-277, 112 Stat. 2681 (1998) ("FY99 Act"). The
FY99 Act required the District to negotiate new 30-year leases
with the vendors currently leasing concession slots at the Wharf.
See Mot. for P.I. at 5; Wharf Defs.' Opp'n at 7. Accordingly,
the plaintiffs believe that "Barton was one of the intended
beneficiaries of that legislation." Mot. for P.I. at 5.
In the FY99 Act, Congress also appropriated $3 million for
improvements to the District's Southwest Waterfront area, which
encompasses the Wharf, on the condition that the District enter
into 30-year leases with existing lessees. See Wharf Defs.'
Opp'n at 7, n. 4. The FY99 Act directed the Army Corps of
Engineers to develop a plan for how best to spend the $3 million
to improve the Wharf. See id.; District Defs.' Opp'n at 4-5.
Importantly, though, the Congressional Appropriations Act for
Fiscal Year 2000, Pub.L. No. 106-113, 113 Stat. 1501 (1999)
("FY00 Act"), changed the terms of the Southwest Waterfront area
project, eliminating the requirement that the District execute
long-term leases with all existing lessees (with the exception of
lessees of "the Marina," which does not include the Municipal
Fish Wharf). See District Defs.' Opp'n at 5, Ex. A6; Pls.'
Reply to District Defs.' Opp'n at 10.
The third and final Congressional Appropriations Act that bears
on this dispute is the Fiscal Year 2001 Act. See Pub.L. No.
106-522, 114 Stat. 2440 (2000) ("FY01 Act"). Citing section 162
of the FY01 Act, the District defendants note that Congress gave
the Mayor of Washington, D.C. "exclusive authority to approve and
execute leases" for slots at the Municipal Fish Wharf. See
District Defs.' Opp'n at 5. Section 162 provides, in pertinent
(a) Exclusive Authority of the Mayor Notwithstanding
section 451 of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act
or any other provision of District of Columbia or
Federal law to the contrary, the Mayor of the
District of Columbia shall have the exclusive
authority to approve and execute leases of the
Washington Marina and the Washington municipal fish
wharf with the existing lessees thereof for an
initial term of 30 years, together with such other
terms and conditions (including renewal options) as
the Mayor deems appropriate.
District Defs.' Opp'n at 5 (citing the FY01 Act, § 162).
As discussed below, a principal point of contention between the
parties is whether this trilogy of Congressional Appropriations
Acts or the D.C. Procurement Practices Act (D.C.Code § 1-1181.1
et seq.) ("PPA") controls the process involving leases for the
Wharf. The plaintiffs contend that the District "totally
sidestepped" the PPA in making leases with the other Wharf
vendors. See Mot. for P.I. at 15. The District defendants
counter that the plaintiffs' PPA argument is "flawed" because §
162 of the FY01 Act trumps the PPA and because the PPA does not
apply to contracts for leases. See District Defs.' Opp'n at 6.
Meanwhile, in mid-1999, the District accepted the
recommendation of the Army Corps of Engineers to demolish the
Fish Market Building — occupied by Mr. Barton — as part of the
renovation plan. See Wharf Defs.' Opp'n at 7. According to the
Wharf defendants, "Not only was the dilapidated structure an
eyesore, but it was situated so as to clog pedestrian and
vehicular traffic." Id.
The plaintiffs characterize what happened next as follows: