Shenandoah American Grill Dispute Heads to Court
Ashburn Restaurant Park landlord seeks back rent, locks doors; owner seeks time.
A dispute between the owner of the Shenandoah American Grill, which has been locked and chained since July 10, and the landlord of the Ashburn Restaurant Park on Waxpool Road goes to court later this month.
Lance Smith, the owner of Shenandoah Grill acknowledged that the restaurant had fallen behind in rent, but said he was surprised at the decision to shut the business down so soon after opening. A small payment recently made toward the lease was expected to stave off eviction, but failed to keep the landlord from taking action.
“We’re obviously downtrodden and heartbroken,” Smith said. “We’re terribly shocked and want to work it out. It was so fast.”
Terry Pao, the Ashburn Park landlord declined to discuss the case, other than to confirm the July 27 court date and say he continues to try to work with Smith. He characterized Smith’s version of the story as incomplete.
“We are currently working with the tenant to resolve the issues,” Pao said via email.
According to Smith, the lease was signed Oct. 20 at which point one month’s advance rent and a security deposit were given to the landlord. The tenant received six months free rent. The restaurant opened April 11. After April 20, Shenandoah became late on the rent and did not make a payment until July 8.
“We opened up being not as busy as we wanted to be,” Smith said, but the customers were beginning to show up in late June and early July. “We were getting there.”
Smith said he filed the suit for unlawful detainer because he felt the situation was not handled properly.
“It was done without court order," Smith said. “We actually had an agreement to pay our back rent off.”
Smith said the landlord issued a letter of default, giving Shenandoah 5 days to quit and surrender the property. So on July 7, Smith and his attorneys offered a plan to address the back rent as well as plans for moving forward in an attempt to give the restaurant until at least Aug. 31 to get back on track. Smith said he wrote a $1,000 check on July 8 and that on July 10 the doors to the Shenandoah's doors were chained.
Rent for the location is a little more than $18,000, including maintenance fees. The rent was approximately 48 days past due on July 8 and about 50 days past due when the doors were locked.
Pao held a fair at the shopping center last month in an attempt to help all of the restaurants attract new customers and bring attention to the park. Several restaurants have opened and closed at the location, next to the Embassy Suites Hotel. Only the chains Moe’s Southwest Grill and Five Guys Hamburgers have endured for any meaningful amount of time. However, other restaurants have opened, such as Pizza Go Round and the Curry Club, while others are coming soon, including Pollo Factory and Pho Bistro, which is moving from another location at Cameron Chase shopping center.
Another reason Smith had hoped for more time to find a way forward was because of the money spent on the restaurant’s interior. He admits the build out cost more and took longer than expected.
Leesburg attorney Matt Snow has handled commercial leases and said they are not necessarily the same as residential leases in terms of tenant rights.
“Everything’s governed by the lease,” he said.
In the meantime, Smith said, all the work he put into Shenandoah is now inaccessible.
“There’s over $30,000 worth of inventory spoiling,” he said. However, his greatest concern seemed to be about the roughly 60 employees who are now without a job.
More details will likely emerge during the court proceeding July 27.