The popular Mexican restaurant in the Fan, Baja Bean, will be forced to move by the end of next year. Managing partner Jeff Allums says he's frustrated at having to uproot his business, since his lease wasn't renewed. However, the restaurant's landlord, attorney John Conrad, says the place is in serious need of renovations.
Allums says there hasn't been much of a dialogue between himself and his landlord, Conrad. He says he's not quite sure why he's being kicked out. Since the decision had been made final through an email, Allums has posted notices around Baja Bean informing customers that he is searching for a new location. He says he would have been happy to pay for upgrades but, but was never approached.
"If he (Conrad) truly wants to renegotiate the lease and renovate the place, he's got the perfect client for it in place already," said Allums.
Conrad, who's owned the building for seven years, says major renovations are needed so the restaurant can blend with the rest of the historical building's facelift.
"The issue is that the condition of the courtyard and the first floor space is unacceptable. We intend to redesign it and renovate it," said Conrad.
He's put an ad out for a new restaurant tenant. Meantime, Allums says he didn't want to invest in upgrades independently, since he was never given a long-term lease by Conrad.
"If it doesn't matter who's down here, he (Conrad) could contact us at any point and we'd negotiate… I think he just wants Baja and its clientele gone, and wants to try something else," theorized Allums, who started Baja Bean thirteen years ago under a different landlord. He says this has been a record year for his business.
"I don't know how long they (Baja Bean) need to do improvements. They've been here seven years with me," said Conrad.
Loyal customers have now started a Facebook fan page in support of Baja Bean.
"It's kind of a staple in the Fan. Everybody comes here, and they have dollar tacos on Tuesdays," said VCU student Emily Sims, who says she thinks most people will follow Baja Bean if it moves. However, Sims says it won't be the same.
"I've gotten ten or 15 emails. I've enjoyed reading them. People are very polite," said Conrad of the emails he's received from customers supporting Baja Bean.
Allums says even if he were to locate to a new space, it wouldn't have the same patio, layout and parking availability as the location on Main Street.
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