“The Vegetable Bar is moving … again.” Try and say that like Tom Hanks does as Forrest Gump. When he is telling the man on the park bench when he was on the U.S. ping-pong team “a few months later they invited me and the ping-pong team to visit the White House. So I went …. again. And I met the President of the United States … again.
That’s how this feels. Like, “Oh well, it’s been two years, so it’s time to move the restaurant … again.” As if this is normal. As if every tenant should invest their time and money into building a business so that they can move out and hand it over to someone else when it finally becomes successful. Because hey, this is Ecuador.
Yes, I’m bitter. We are not moving The Vegetable Bar again because we want to. We are moving it because we have been fighting with the building homeowners, our landlord and the municipio since the day we opened.
Here is what it all comes down to. Even though we were assured that our space was approved for use as a restaurant, and we have a lease renting it to us as a restaurant, it in fact was registered as a commercial, not a restaurant, space with the municipio.
The building homeowners (actually a minority of them) have been filing “denuncias” against us since we opened (actually before we opened). They just don’t want a restaurant in their building (one told us, it’s not “prestigious enough”). The denucias kept bringing the municpio to the doors wanting to pull our permits or refuse to give us our new ones.
On one hand I can’t blame the homeowners. Because our landlords knew that they didn’t have approval for a restaurant in this space. They admit that. But they felt that was our issue to resolve.
So, after two years of legal battles, we admit defeat. We are leaving our current location and moving … again.
And while I am bitter, I am doing it with a sense of relief. The battle is finally over. We entered into mediation and ended up getting some free rent and a release of some alicota fees. This “compensation” in no way covers the losses we will incur from moving. Unless we consider the value of no longer having the harassment or legal battles — the value of all the stress being lifted. In the end, that is the compensation.
The lesson to all of this is to pay for better real estate agents and lawyers upfront. We had a lawyer working on our lease with the agents listing the place, but obviously no one really looked out for us. That was my bad. I should have learned more about the difference between “commercial” and “commercial-alimentation.” I know the difference now, believe me.
The great news is that we have a new location, on 3 de Noviembre … again. This time about 200 meters east of the Broken Bridge (in the building that looks like a castle). It’s bigger but cozier, has room for several restaurants, and even has a huge space for events and a music auditorium!
So, we are moving to a better space, probably a better location, and we have a VERY good lease in hand that our fabulous new lawyer (who helped us get out of our problems at the current location), Xavier Molina, has put together for us.
And we are wiser now. Even though we have to start over and we will lose a lot of our current clients, we are happy. More than happy, really.
Ecuador does surprise you on a regular basis, not always for the good. But the good thing is that it never seems to take too much from you. It leaves you with a little bit of energy left to move forward. At least that’s what it has done for us here.
We found new landlords we are excited to be working with. We met some people in the municipio who are great to work with and we found a new legal representative we are confident in. So, we are moving forward with enough energy to make this happen.
We really do love our customers and regret that we will leave some behind. They’ve become friends as much as customers, and I personally hope I see every one of their smiling faces sitting at a table in the new location … again.
We will be closing The Vegetable Bar at 3 de Noviembre and Jacaranda on the west side of town on July 30. We will be opening in our new location, “The Castle,” on August 14. We hope to see you there.