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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why Doesn't Ike's Place Just Move Out of the Castro?

Posted By on Thu, May 13, 2010 at 12:04 PM

click to enlarge Ike Shehadeh. - LINDA A. CICERO/STANFORD MAGAZINE
  • Linda A. Cicero/Stanford Magazine
  • Ike Shehadeh.
With the possibility of eviction looming, and relations with a handful of neighbors that owner Ike Shehadeh calls straight-up harassment, why doesn't Ike's Place just move on from 16th Street? Simple ― it can't.

Shehadeh says he's stuck ― he simply doesn't have the cash to move, much less to deal with steep legal fees expected to mount with any court challenge.

"If this Ike's Place is not here and isn't making money, then there's no Ike's Place," Shehadeh says.

On Monday, Shehadeh went to court to see if he could the eviction from landlord Denman Drobisch thrown out. The plea was denied. Shehadeh has a few more days to answer the complaint, which, unless Shehadeh decides to shut down Ike's, will almost surely mean going to trial. The problem with that scenario, Shehadeh says, is that he doesn't have the cash to pay the legal fees. "There's not much more than a handful of dollars," he says.

Though the daily lines that spark neighbors' rage suggest that Ike's is an ATM for its owners, Shehadeh says it's not so. Like any new food business, Ike's spent its first year and a half struggling to break even. It wasn't till the second half of 2009 that the business started to make money. And with a planned August expansion to the new Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center at Stanford University (a second Ike's opened last year in Redwood Shores), Shehadeh says there's little left for the lawyers. Add to that the fact that, since complaints intensified, Ike's Place trimmed its hours by three (it now closes at 7 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.).

"Financially we don't sell as many sandwiches, plus my employees don't get to work the extra three hours," Shehadeh says. "The business is losing thousands of dollars a week."

You get the feeling part of Shehadeh wants to walk away from the Castro rather than fighting. "Fighting is going to cost a lot of money, money that we don't have," he says. "Stanford is opening up in a few months. Honestly, I don't need the headache," except, he says, to keep some 40 employees of the Castro Ike's from being laid off (the shop employs 53 in all).

Unless, of course, some law firm offers Ike's its services pro bono. Shehadeh says he's not seeking it, nor is he expecting it to happen, but if it came along, he'd take it.

"I can give them sandwiches," he says.

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