Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sad, Sad News

This e-mail, sent out by LeNell Smothers, owners of the great Red Hook liquor store, was recently reprinted on Read it and weep.

Our lease is officially up this month. I know it will take months for a formal eviction should it come to that. Sad to say that the space that we had a draft lease for fell through this week. It was for the vacant lot across the street next to the Good Fork. This lot is co-owned by Jimmy Buscariello and Greg O'Connell (who owns quite a bit of Red Hook including the Fairway building). We had architectural drawings, had agreed on basic lease points, and I've been thinking all along that we were just finalizing details...

The space included the store on the first floor and the bar on the second. After discussing this project for nearly a year now, I get a visit from Greg recently telling me that he has just realized constructions costs will be more than he wants to pay. He won't entertain thoughts of my partnering in building out the space. Just flat out pulled out at the last moment...which happens to be a few days before the end of my current lease. I'm in shock. I really thought this deal was practically done when Greg had me pay an attorney to draft a lease. Rarely is LeNell speechless. I am.

The other space we thought was workable in Red Hook, turns out to be a dud, as well. The owner has been telling everyone that we are moving into the space. Months ago I asked him for lease points and told him that I could not agree to anything less than a 10 year lease. Today out of nowhere, he tells me that he only wants to sign a five year lease. I won't do it. It's just not good business sense at this point. I refuse to keep working to pay someone else's mortgage while I barely pay myself and have no hope for me and my hardworking staff to get ahead.

So folks, I just don't know the future. I had really hoped to announce that we had a lease signed for this lot across the street and was so eager to break the news to you. I'm really just in shock. Storefronts in Red Hook sit vacant, vacant lots side idle, landlords daydream, and proven businesses like mine get put through hell. A boss of mine told me years ago, "If you can survive in New York, you can survive anywhere." Well, I think I've proved myself long enough. Maybe it's time to head back South. Own a real home, eat real bar b que, and have a life. LeNell is broken.

When you come in and I'm dazed, bitchy beyond normal, on the phone like a lunatic, please don't take it personally. Everything I've worked so hard for is hanging in the gallows."

Hard to know what to say. I've depended on LeNell's for some many hard-to-get bottles over the years. When no one else has it, they do. If I had the money and the real estate, I would call LeNell right now. Alas.

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