Mad River Union
VALLEY WEST – It's become apparent that the post-Coronavirus/COVID-19 world will be different, and one difference for Arcata's Valley West shopping center may be the loss of the Village Pantry restaurant.
In a public Facebook post (see below), owner Richard Thompson states that shopping center owner Shami Mitri of Shami Valley West LLC, located in Santa Rosa, refused a proposal which would allow the restaurant, closed since March, to recover and repay its rent once the Coronavirus crisis is over.
Contacted this morning, Mitri said that Thompson "never mentioned" a repayment arrangement, but that he did use "very bad language" during a conversation.
"If he keeps threatening me, I will take action," Mitri said.
Mitri said he made a counter offer to Thompson, but declined to offer details and referred questions to his attorney. On being asked who his attorney is, he hung up.
Thompson disputes Mitri's claims. "He never countered a reasonable counter to me based on what I offered, just a continuation the same arrangement," Thompson said. "I never swore at him. I have never verbally communicated directly with him."
Thompson said all communication with Mitri has been through the shopping center's property manager.
Public records show Shami Valley West LLC as a foreign company which incorporated in October, 2006 in Delaware, and owned by Mitri H. Shami. The Corporation Wiki website indicates that the company is one of several in which Shami is involved.
Thompson's Facebook post on the matter:
"Today I am sending notification to my landlord through his lawyer that we cannot continue to operate our family restaurant in Arcata, California. This will represent the end of a 36 year, 4 generational business initially begun by my father, a decorated ww2 naval aviator in 1984. Since then my wife and I, our son and his wife, my brother and his son, my 4 grandchildren have all owed all or part of our income to this business. We also have 7 grand children under the age of six, and 1 more getting ready to land on the planet, dependent on income from this business.
"During our time at the Arcata restaurant we have had several landlords as the small shopping center changed hands. For the last 15+ years we have “worked for” a firm out of Rohnert Park that specializes in small shopping centers. I say “work for” because in the restaurant business the money is in owning the building. The having to be open makes us ripe for financial blackmail when some major repair needs to be addressed The fairest I can be is that our landlord was not as diligent as he might have been towards the shopping center. I would classify him as a “miner”, taking funds from his tenants and removing it from the community.
"As the covid-19 pandemic hit us in mid March we were shut down for facility dining by public agencies. While take out was allowed, it was very apparent this would not work for us. The absence of cash flow meant I inherited roughly 60,000$ in debt with no way to pay. I immediately notified the landlord that we could not pay rent going forward until we could fully operate our business. While public action forbids eviction for 3 months it does not stop rent from accruing, meaning that we would take on additional debt that we would have a very hard time paying.
"In hopes of staying in business I reach out to the landlord for relief. Mind you, I have paid rent for 36 years on time despite very tough conditions at times. It was clear that he was not interested in helping us. What did I offered? No rent during the times we could not open,reduced rent until we were fully open, and repayment of lost revenue to the land lord over future leases. He would be out no money in the long run and I would be allowed to try to save my business. It was the best deal I could offer. Basically he turned my offer down so we close forever.
"There is a special place in Hell waiting for a guy who would close a 36 year old family run business during a global pandemic. To be clear...I am also a landlord and have received no income during this time because the tenant has no ability to pay."