Nathan's Fate Up in the Air

What’s Going on with Nathans in Georgetown? was originally published on Housing Complex on Feb. 24, 2009, at 4:47 pm

Nathans, a 40 year-old, Georgetown institution

Hat tip to DC Metrocentric for reporting on the future of Nathans, one of Georgetown’s most recognizable landmarks, home to Carol Joynt’s Q&A Cafe, and—most importantly from a real estate perspective—occupant of a prime D.C. corner: Wisconsin Avenue and M Street.

In the next few weeks, Joynt has to decide if she will renew her lease or not. In her blog, she talks about property taxes, health insurance, and all sorts of other things weighing on her. It’s quite an outpouring, and some of the details seem very complicated. But, anyway, this will give you a sense of what’s going on. Also, Nathans is 40 years old this year:

I also have to make a very big decision regarding Nathans and the future for me. It feels right now like we could get a new lease, but it would be for only three years. There’s no opportunity in that to get investor money or bank loans. Especially in this awful recession. Meeting our obligations, so far, has drained the business. The landlords have made some concessions, they have also asked concessions of me. The biggest burden is to be liable for the property tax. At $70-75,000 that’s a lot of money to pull together when there are so many other urgent demands for the money.And if Nathans folded, I would still have to pay that. I have no personal money left. The well is dry.

A three year lease would give me three years of medical insurance, which is essential. But that may be all. Jon said today that I would have to choose between paying the rent and the taxes or paying me. No pay for me means I’m carrying all the liability and working essentially for the landlords and the city. The only way I could support us then is to go get a job, which means I would not be able to keep an eye on Nathans.

If I choose to close the place, I lose the health insurance, and I will still have to pay the ‘08 property tax - $75,000 - with no income, plus outstanding bank debt, and God knows what other crap will stir up. Right now we’re in day three of an audit by the DC government. The auditor sits in the basement, going through stuff, asking no questions. It’s not a good sign when they don’t ask questions. We’ve done everything straight, but still it freaks me out.

So, what I have to decide in the next couple of weeks is; STAY OR GO? It’s entirely up to me and me alone, and I hate that. I don’t think I’m smart enough to know how to make the decision.

So, you know, please come to the 40th anniversary party.

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