An epic tenant-versus-landlord battle erupted at Floyd's Coffee Shop on SE Morrison last week, after tension behind the scenes over rent and utilities led to police involvement and a midnight stakeout.
Five years ago, Jack Inglis and his wife Cris Chapman opened the bright yellow drive-through café in the corner of the King Harvest Natural Foods building on SE 15th and Morrison. Things went downhill fast. After a year, landlord Howard Durand (the owner of King Harvest) handed the couple a utility bill—scrawled on a receipt slip—for $7,814. Inglis and Chapman refused to pay the hefty sum for their 500 or 600-square-foot coffee shop (the landloard and tenant cannot agree on the size). Durand refused to negotiate. Two weeks later, Floyd's received an eviction notice. From there, communication between the neighbors degenerated into emails from lawyers and notes slipped under their shared door.
"He's got zero ethics," says Inglis.
"I still feel like they owe me money," says Durand.
With business booming at the coffee shop, the tension got worse. In June 2006, Durand's lawyer sent Floyd's an email saying rent should increase from $1,000 a month to $6,150 a month, plus utilities. That proposed rent increase was unsuccessful.
As the end of the five-year lease approached, Durand tried to raise the rent again, this time asking for nine percent of the café's gross sales. Inglis became certain that Durand was trying to take over the thriving coffee shop, equipment included, to make it his own.
As weeks ran out on the lease, which expired at midnight on May 1, the Floyd's staff secretly moved all the supplies and equipment to the new storefront just 50 yards away, sublet to them by neighborhood bar Crush. On April 30, Inglis decided to camp out in the café, sleeping with one eye open on a small cot.
"I knew he was going to attempt something!" says Inglis. "I've been battling this guy for four years!" As expected, six minutes after midnight, Durand pulled up with a crew full of workers.
Inglis whipped out the lease, both men exchanged "heated words," and Inglis wound up calling the police, who arrived and told Durand he and his crew should probably leave. Durand says the idea that he would start a new café with Floyd's equipment is "absurd" and that the whole thing was a misunderstanding—he thought the lease expired on midnight of April 30.
At dawn, the Floyd's staff painted over their yellow sign, opened its doors half a block away, and did not miss a single day of business. In the old drive-through, a new coffee shop is now open for business: King Harvest Coffee.