Second vendor files lawsuit against Santoni's

A second vendor has filed a lawsuit against Santoni's Supermarket, a Highlandtown institution that said earlier this week it will be forced to close because of Baltimore's bottled-beverage tax.

G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc., a 100-year-old fruit and vegetable vendor based in Jessup, said in court documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that the company delivered $203,198 worth of produce to Santoni's from June 1 to Sept. 23, all of which remains unpaid.

The East Lombard Street grocer, founded in the early 1930s and which at one time had as many as a dozen locations, said Sunday that it will be forced to close at the end of the month. The company said sales fell by about 18 percent since the city's bottled-beverage tax was adopted in July 2010.

The Cefalu lawsuit is the second related to Santoni's recent struggles. In August, Coastal Sunbelt Produce Co. sued the grocer to collect $18,654 in unpaid bills. Santoni's CFO Rob Santoni Jr., who could not be reached Friday, said Monday that when sales fell, the store fell behind with vendors.

Lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com