Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Behind $345,000 in Rent, Reeves Center Deli Facing Eviction

It seems a local business owner has stumbled across a way to overcome DC's high commercial lease rates: just don't pay your rent.

That, at least, is what the District's Department of Real Estate Services says Reeves Center Deli owner Fitwi "John" Tekeste has been doing (or not doing) since 2000. According to the City Paper's Lydia DePillis, Tekeste is $345,044.88 in arrears on rent payments dating back to 2000. And this on rent that, at about 412 per square foot, is about a third of market rate in the area. Tekeste is being evicted from the space on February 21, after which time the city will put the space back up for lease.

For his part, Tekeste says he has an explanation. He cites a verbal agreement he supposedly struck with the Williams Administration to not pay rent while he was removating the space, and a 2009 agreement he supposedly had with the Fenty administration to not pay rent while he was redoing the electrical system in the space.

Tekeste is claiming something a bit more sinister too: that DRES, in the dying days of the Fenty administration, issued the eviction notice as payback for Tekeste's support of Vince Gray in the 2010 mayoral race.

But these protests seem spurious, to say the least. Absent any documentation or evidence of Tekeste's supposed agreements with city officials, and considering the unlikelihood that the city would make any agreements that amounted to charging no rent to a business owner for an entire decade due to renovation work, DRES is moving forward with the February 21 eviction.

So, memo to other area small businesses who are leasing from the government: if your lease deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

And while we're at it, a second memo to District officials: why the **** is the rent so cheap at the Reeves Center to begin with? I can understand cutting business owners a bit of a break for leasing in a government building (a pretty crummy one at that) and all of the red tape involved, but a 66% cut seems unnecessarily steep. Particularly when the city is staring at a mountainous budget deficit.


Anonymous said...

What is more amazing, given lack of payment, is that the city allowed the Deli to double its size several years back, when an adjacent space went vacant.

Anonymous said...

I'll be sorry to see it go. My mother and her buddies eat there and the employees are locals.