Health concerns, COVID-19 and sky-high rent increase force closure of popular downtown lunch spot
LONDON, ONT. -- The owners of a popular lunch spot downtown are reaching out for help after personal health concerns, the pandemic, and a whopper of a rent increase forced the closure of the family business.
"I appreciate all the customers who supported us," said Eddie Manuel, who owns and operates Eddie’s Fresh Grill with his wife Maha.
The business, inside a trailer that Eddie built himself, is located in the corner of a parking lot at Queens Avenue and Talbot Street. It’s been a mainstay for hungry downtown dwellers.
Early last year Eddie was diagnosed with stage four liver disease and kidney disease, requiring a double transplant.
"COVID-19 hit. The pandemic hit, and we decided it’s not safe for him to work," said his daughter Olinda.
The plan was to sell the business to help pay for living and medical expenses.
Olinda Eddie and Maha Manuel in London, Ont. on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. (Bryan Bicknell / CTV News)
The family found a buyer and were set to close the sale this month. That’s when they say the landowner, Precise Parklink, raised the rent from $450to $2,000 per month - an increase of 344 per cent.
With the new rent, the would-be buyer determined the business was no longer financially viable, and backed out of the deal. Olinda said the property owner would not budge on rent.
"They do know my father’s condition. They do know we’re trying to sell the trailer. They do know that like my dad’s trying to do his best. You know they’ve been here for 12 years. They do know them very well. So it’s such a huge shock for us to finally have this deal to finally have them pay for their medical bills and you know their food, and their living situation, and then just taken away."
Eddie Manuel (Bryan Bicknell / CTV News)
CTV News consulted a lawyer about the situation, who advised that while the company’s actions may seem harsh, there’s nothing illegal about what has transpired.
It does mean yet another loss of a small business from the downtown, and a family left wondering about their future.
Downtown London Executive Director Barbara Maly calls the situation heartbreaking.
"And that’s what’s so sad about hearing stories like this, that these have been longstanding businesses in our downtown, that’s created the character of our downtown. You know they have first point patrons that come and visit them in the downtown and you know there is going to be a huge void."
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help pay for Eddie’s medical and living expenses. Those who would like to can donate here.
"All my customers, I appreciate to help us here," said Eddie.
"Over the past 12 years my dad really appreciates all the support," added Olinda.
The family is donating about $3,000 worth of leftover food from the business to the London Food Bank.