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Landlord Threatens Richmond Restaurateur with ‘Vengeful Eviction’

It’s big drama in a small town

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Menbere Aklilu at Salute e Vita Ristorante
Salute e Vita Ristorante

Salute e Vita Ristorante, the Richmond restaurant owned by community do-gooder Menbere Aklilu, has been served a 30-day eviction notice by the property’s owner, Richard Poe of Penterra Company.

Richmond’s mayor, Tom Butt, maintains that the eviction is a result of a dispute between the property owner and the city of Richmond, with Aklilu’s livelihood caught in the crosshairs. In a statement, Butt says “We believe that this action by Richard Poe is driven by spite and may be part of a retaliation against the City of Richmond as well as the people of Richmond resulting from the June election on Measures N and O, which Richard Poe lost.” The small town drama stems from attempts by Poe (a resident of Florida) to build a low-density housing development along the waterfront, “The Richmond Riviera,” which was denied by the city.

A representative for Poe told KTVU’s Alex Savidge that the eviction was the result of a “sewage problem,” which Aklilu failed to remedy. However, following the August 5 inspection of the restaurant by the Contra Costa County Environmental Health Division, it was concluded that it was an “invalid complaint,” with no further action required by Aklilu or the county. See the full report below.

Via email, Butt’s chief of staff David Grey told Eater that “Menbere is arguably one of Richmond’s strongest philanthropic business owners,” hosting full-service Thanksgiving dinner for low-income families at the restaurant, and special Mother’s Day brunches for single moms in need (including a spa day). Aklilu also hosts free etiquette classes at the restaurant, and makes grants to education programs, giving away over $50,000 to non-profits through the “Mebere’s Way Fund.”

A press conference was held today at 10 a.m., attended by media and residents opposing the eviction. Stay tuned for more developments on this story.