MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX) — Despite a statewide moratorium on evictions, a restaurant owner on the Peninsula is being sued by his landlord for failing to pay rent even though the business has been closed since March.
Alexander Hult is the owner, founder and CEO of Flights restaurant, one of four in the Bay Area including Burlingame, Campbell and Los Gatos. But it is the one in Mountain View that has added another title to his name — that of defendant.
“Save our jobs! Justice for Flights!” chanted Hult and his supporters at a Friday protest at the Palo Alto offices of his landlord, Peninsula Land and Capital. The company has served him with a lawsuit for not paying rent in full.
“Instead of saying, ‘hey, if you don’t pay rent or you don’t do this, we’re going to sue you’ they just — literally — just filed a lawsuit,” Hult said.
The other Bay Area sites are still operating because they have patios but the Mountain View location doesn’t and it is only in the last week or two that the street outside was closed to allow for al fresco dining.
Hult said it’s not clear if there is enough demand at the Mountain View site to support rehiring staff and restocking the restaurant. Like a lot of businesses, he’s barely making enough to keep operating now and cannot afford to pay what is owed from the last four months. Hult said his other three landlords all negotiated a rent break during the pandemic but, he said, Peninsula Land and Capital is demanding every penny.
“I think it’s very important that landlords get the message that they can’t treat people like this,” Hult said. “They can’t treat businesses like this. They can’t treat individuals like this.”
The landowner did not respond for comment Sunday but people in Mountain View said filing a lawsuit during a pandemic did seem a bit hard-hearted.
“I do understand the owner needs to survive and needs to pay his bills as well,” said Fremont resident Denise Ambriz. “But if Flights is not bringing in any money and its employees are not being employed I think there should be some sort of compassion there.”
“If we want to keep our way of life — of living — we’re going to have to compromise,” said Bernardo Gutierrez of Foster City. “You cannot just punish somebody. It’s just greed. You have to be more generous, more open.”
Hult says he thought the eviction moratorium prevented such actions but will now have to find the money to fight the lawsuit. He said government needs to seriously address the mounting debt of businesses and individuals or it could lead to anarchy.
“Because, if anything like this continues, we’re going to be in a really bad situation with homeless people out on the street and small businesses closed and a lot of empty storefronts in our downtowns,” Hult said.