Richmond Mayor Tom Butt on Friday laid out a proposal he hopes will convince a property owner against evicting the owner of Salute e Vita Ristorante from the restaurant’s longtime Marina Bay location.
The plan has involved plenty of kindhearted folks in the community who have stepped up to assist Salute owner Menbere Aklilu, who last year won the Jefferson Award for community volunteerism for using her restaurant as a launching pad for local charitable acts.
The community was stunned Monday to learn that Aklilu had received a 30-day notice to vacate the property at 1900 Esplanade Drive by Panterra Company, owned by Richard Poe.
The mayor accused Poe of political retribution, saying Poe was evicting Aklilu in order to get back at the mayor and city of Richmond for blocking his proposed waterfront development.
Poe’s mother, Jacqueline, denied that claim to the East Bay Times, telling the newspaper the eviction notice stemmed from frustration over deferred maintenance at the Salute property. Poe complained of “standing water” in the kitchen and foul bathroom conditions.
Those claims were not proven during a county inspection done earlier this month, which “found no evidence of a sewage spill and noted that drains in the kitchen were all functioning and the bathrooms were in good condition,” the Times reported.
Mayor Butt, a veteran architect, says he went to Salute’s to do his own inspection. While several thousand dollars of maintenance is needed, including repairing one leak affecting the kitchen floor, according to the mayor, “it is manageable, does not constitute a health hazard and can be accomplished without closing the restaurant.”
The only issue discovered in the bathroom was a leak under the women’s restroom that will be “repaired possibly as early as today, or at most, Monday,” Butt added.
The mayor said it is “fortunate that Menbe has lots of friends who want to help.”
“One in particular has taken it upon himself to engage and pay a team of contractors, including a hazardous materials cleanup specialist, to make a thorough inspection of the restaurant crawl space,” the mayor said.
The mayor hopes that these repairs will convince the Poe family to allow Aklilu and Salute to continue to operate at 1900 Esplanade.
Aklilu acquired Salute about 15 years ago, but her lease for the building expired seven years ago.She has been on “month-to-month” status ever since, according to the mayor.
Hundreds of people rallied on Aklilu’s behalf at a press conference held by the mayor at Salute on Tuesday morning. The mayor has asked her supporters to send a polite letter to the Poe family asking to cease the eviction or sell the property.
“Hopefully, Jacqueline Poe will reconsider her eviction order,” the mayor said.
Photo: Mayor Tom Butt’s e-forum.
An earlier version of the story incorrectly identified Jacqueline as Richard Poe’s wife when she is his mother.