New Macon Caribbean restaurant fights eviction | News
Just four months after opening its doors, an Ingleside Avenue restaurant is fighting eviction.
The owner of Tropical Flava and his landlord are fighting in court over the condition of his building, and who's responsible for fixing it.
In April, James Duncombe finally opened his new restaurant, in Macon's Ingleside Village. He calls it an authentic Caribbean restaurant, serving dishes like oxtail, red beans and rice, and jerk chicken.
Duncombe worked on the building for more than two years to get ready. But now, he's already facing eviction. He says his legal problems with the landlord are not his fault.
"It's raining, everything is flooding out, the mold is growing on the wall, the baseboards we put down were eventually bowed," he says.
Duncombe says the problems started even before Tropical Flava opened, problems he says are covered in the lease and the landlord should pay for. The biggest one, a roof that leaks whenever it rains, causing Duncombe to cover his desk with plastic.
The building is owned by Javaid Sayeed, a doctor from Dallas, Georgia, according to property tax records.
Duncombe says he's called the property manager, Fickling and Company, for help, but says he never got a response.
He says, "When I'm looking and seeing the water pouring out the roof, we'd have to go and buy the plastic, pay someone to go on the roof to put the plastic up, etc, replace the baseboards, because in my mind, all we wanted to do was to get the doors open so we can then pay whatever debt or whatever we had owed."
Now, Duncombe, his landlord, and the property manager are all tied up in court. The landlord wants to evict Tropical Flava due to unpaid rent.
Duncombe says, "It's late because the money that I sometimes had to pay the rent, I had to use it to stop the consistent damage that was being done from the water."
He says at times he had no other option but to close for days at a time saying, "Because the hallway was completely saturated with water and we were afraid that our customers might go down to use the restroom and slip or fall."
Through the repairs and rainfall, Duncombe's health score still reads a perfect 100. He says he makes sure the problems don't affect the production of his meals.
In a letter last September to Fickling and Company's Tom Hicks and Peggy Durica, Duncombe described the problems, including electrical, gas line, water leakage, and air conditioning issues.
Duncombe wrote that he planned to pay his back rent, but he said he'd invested $70,000, and could not afford to pay for both repairs and rent.
When contacted for comment, property manager Tom Hicks told 13WMAZ he would send an official statement. Instead, we got an email from his attorney Brent Marshall two days later, who said he would send a statement Monday. Since then he has not returned any of our calls. 13WMAZ's Paula Rotondo went by his office Tuesday and was told by his receptionist that he was not in, but would let him know that we stopped by.
In July, Fickling Management filed a petition asking a Bibb County Magistrate Court judge to order Duncombe out of the building. They also want him to pay more than $16,000 in rent, late fees, legal fees, and more.
Last week, the case went before Judge William Shurling who transferred the case to Superior Court, because so much money is involved.
Duncombe says he doesn't want to move and lose his investment, now more than $100,000. He says, "You can only take money from a building for so long, but eventually, you have to replenish it."
Duncombe is not new to the restaurant business. Before opening on Ingleside, he ran Tropical Flava at another location on Houston Road.
At 5:55 pm on Tuesday, Brent Marshall, attorney for the property manager, responded to us by email. He said, in part, the parties this week began the process of trying to settle the case.