Eviction threat rescinded for popular Richmond waterfront restaurant

A landlord who drew Richmond Mayor Tom Butt's ire when he threatened to evict a popular restaurant earlier this month has rescinded the notice to vacate but is demanding the restaurant owner make repairs to the building, representatives for the landlord announced today.
In a statement released today, officials with the owner, the Penterra Company said that Menbere Aklilu, owner of the Salute e Vita Ristorante, had already taken corrective steps so the company was giving her "one more chance."
"Our focus has always been the health and safety of the people coming into the building," company President Jacqueline Poe said.
The notice to vacate came after an Aug. 1 letter from the company reporting it had hired a pest control specialist to investigate a smell coming from under the building and found "two major broken pipes located under the restaurant."
"Could you please have someone look at it and fix the problem as soon as possible as we don't want the problem to get worse," company manager
Alain Fabre wrote.
Butt said demanding the restaurant fix pipes under the building was unusual and would normally be the landlord's responsibility except that the lease had "unusually aggressive requirements for building and grounds maintenance by the lessee."
"Anyone familiar with the restaurant business knows that this is an unusual and untenable situation for a restaurant lessee," Butt wrote.
After hearing about the threatened eviction, Butt called a rally outside of the restaurant, accusing the building owners of pursuing the eviction out of spite for the city.
Jacqueline Poe's husband, Richard Poe, had two ballot initiatives defeated in the last election, one that would have approved a development contrary to the city's general plan, another that would have reduced the city manager's salary.
The possible eviction of the popular restaurant from its prime location on the Richmond waterfront drew outrage. Aklilu, known in the community as Menbe, has been widely celebrated for her compelling life story as an Ethiopian who moved to Italy and overcame the murder of her mother and an abusive first marriage, and for her extensive community service.
She was nominated for the Women's Hall of Fame by state Sen. Loni Hancock earlier this year and gave the commencement address at Holy Names University in Oakland in 2013.
Butt also said today that Richmond attorney Joshua Genser is representing Aklilu pro-bono and has been in contact with the Poes' attorney.
Butt said he was helping to set up a fund to help pay for the repair costs.
This week, Penterra had the areas under the restaurant tested and found the presence of E. Coli in a crawlspace. The company released the reports publicly today, but said it would not pursue the eviction if the repairs were completed.
But the restaurant passed an inspection by the Contra Costa County Health Department earlier this month, just after the eviction notice, according to Butt.