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January 05. 2014 9:36PM

Manchester dentist evicted to make room for liquor store expansion

MANCHESTER — Smile Specialists, the dental-orthodontist practice that has been in the North End for more than 15 years, will have to move from its Northside Plaza location in the coming months, a move forced on the practice so the adjacent liquor store can expand, one of the partners said this week.

Dr. Ralph P. Ergas said an eviction notice was taped to his front door just days before Christmas. It says Smile Specialists must vacate the space by the end of this month, but Ergas said he hopes to stay a few more months.

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission has already signed a long-term lease with the property owner, MEG Companies, for the space, said Andrew Davis, administrator of real estate and leasing for the liquor commission.

To Ergas, the deal is sickening. He’s a pediatric dentist who takes Medicaid patients, and he’s losing his space to the liquor commission in the state, which boasts some of the highest per-capita sales of alcohol in the country.

“I feel bullied,” said Ergas, a retired veteran and former New Hampshire National Guardsman. “I’m stuck. I’m a little guy. I’m just trying to take care of kids.”

Efforts to reach his landlord and a lawyer who represented MEG in the lease negotiations were unsuccessful.

Ergas said his lease expired in the summer, and he felt he could not sign another 10-year commitment with MEG, given his age of 53. He tried to negotiate a shorter lease.

But the state liquor commission had a right of first refusal on the space, which is adjacent to its 8,000 square-foot liquor store.

Davis said MEG Companies contacted the liquor commission to see if it was interested in the space. The commission renegotiated its existing lease to $15.70 a month per square foot. The lease is for another six years with an option to renew another five, he said.

He said the new space will be used for warehousing. Davis said he understands that a tenant currently uses the space, and he expects it will take three months for Smile Specialists to move.

“I think the commission would be willing to work with the parties,” he said. “We’ve waited for four years for additional space. I think the commission would be reasonable.”

Ergas said he and his ex-wife, orthodontist Dr. Lynnette Nyberg, employ about 12 people at the Manchester office. They operate another office in Dover. They have about 9,000 patients.

He said it will be difficult to find and refit new space in the time constraints that MEG is discussing.

Recently, he wrote Gov. Maggie Hassan asking for some help.

Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said the office missed Ergas’ first message, and is looking into the situation.

“Our initial understanding is that the liquor commission would be very willing to work with the landlord to mitigate the challenges that Dr. Ergas is facing,” Goldberg said.

mhayward@unionleader.com







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