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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ti Georges’ restaurant considers a move as fire damage goes unrepaired

It’s been nearly six months since a fire forced the closure Ti Georges’ Chicken, the Echo Park Haitian restaurant that became a center for Haitian quake relief efforts. Owner George LaGuerre returned to his native Haiti three times since the fire, each time expecting repair work to begin while he was away. But the construction – which is being handled by the landlord and insurance company- has yet to begin, and now LaGuerre finds himself  in a tense relationship with the property owner that could lead him to move Ti Georges’ out of  its Glendale Boulevard home of 12 years.  The landlord’s leasing agent says LaGuerre is welcome to reopen once repairs are completed but the restaurant owner must eventually pay several months of back rent owed before the fire broke out. LaGuerre said he simply wants to get back into the kitchen – whether it’s in Echo Park or somewhere else.  “I do want to reopen my business,” LaGuerre said today. “It’s the only way I have to provide for my family.”

Leasing agency Franco Canzona said the fire – which started in the attic above the restaurant – caused more structural damage than originally estimated, requiring more extensive engineering work and review by city officials and the landlord”s insurance company (LaGuerre said he did not have insurance).  Work is finally expected to begin in a few days, he said.  “It has been frustrating. ”

Canzona said the owner of Glen Village, which includes several other shops and cafes in the southern edge of Echo Park, was concerned about the health of LaGuerre’s business since rent had not been paid for several months before the fire.  The owner has offered to forgive the unpaid rent and help with LaGuerre’s relocation costs if he moves out, Canzona said. “But it’s George’s decision to make. After the place is repaired and put back … he’s expected to pay rent and on time.”

LaGuerre said the landlord had not raised the issue of the back rent as week after week went by with no repairs being made. Now, he’s contacted his lawyer about the matter and said he’s considering the landlord’s suggestion to relocate.  “At this point, I don’t think it’s going to be a friendly thing anymore.”

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