It’s not a case of bullying.
The landlord of the Airport Coffee Shop wants everyone to know they are not closing the door on the whole patio controversy quite yet.
The issue blew up last week when the Airport Coffee Shop sent out word they might have to shut down if they lost access to the patio.
The Airport Coffee Shop staff put out a mayday call that was published in last week’s Progress, asking for support from customers and the Chilliwack community.
Now the other side of the story has to be aired.
Magnum has been accused of “bullying” in this situation, and a petition is circulating to collect signatures.
An April 14 letter from Magnum Management notified the coffee shop they had to close the east patio to allow for repairs to “rehabilitate” the outdoor area used by the 36-year-old coffee shop business, made famous with the tagline “I fly for pie.”
The estimated repairs, for the landlord to fix the patio properly and bring the patio back up to safety standards, are $35,000 to $45,000, said Garry Atkins, manager of Magnum Management.
Management is saying they were forced to take back control of the patio for legal and liability reasons.
“I don’t feel, that when a subtenant is asked to comply with the conditions of the lease, that it is bullying,” said Atkins.
An inspection back in October noted several safety issues.
The broken concrete on the patio has to be removed and reset — not just fixed temporarily. Root bases have to be removed.
“We can’t have safety concerns and we can’t have tripping issues,” he said.
Meeting those standards is legally required, he added, and the repair costs will have to somehow be recovered.
Coffee shop operators had since last October to do something about the condition of the patio. More pressure was applied until Magnum had no choice but to give them notice it was retaking control of the patio to fix it.
“All that any landlord can ask is that tenants stay in compliance with the terms of the sublease,” he said.
“If not in compliance, it puts the head lease holder in a position where they’re forced to act to bring them into compliance.”
There was a flurry of correspondence back and forth between the coffee shop and landlord in an attempt to resolve the issue, and get the repairs done since last fall.
From the safety liability standpoint the trees planted on the patio have to be removed, said Atkins. Some are Ponderosa Pine, which looked fine at first when they were eight feet. But they were arguably an incorrect choice for the patio, and now overgrown, they pose risks to public safety, especially in high winds.
“Two have blown over, and one went through the fence, and that breaches airside security, and is another liability issue, which becomes a federal responsibility.”
Regular pruning and patio maintenance were the coffee shop’s responsibility.
“It should be noted that we have never charged them for the use of that patio,” said Atkins. “All we requested was that they repair and maintain it if they were to use it.”
The coffee shop had suggested some temporary measures and short term repairs but it wasn’t quite enough. He proposed a two-phase approach as a solution, in the hopes it would reduce the burden of any monetary hardships.
First was taking care of the safety issue quickly, meaning the tripping hazards and trees. The second was to take care of the rest of the trees not causing immediate danger but had problems caused by roots.
“We asked for a response and failed to get one,” he said, adding it was clear there would be resistance to getting the required repairs done, and no repair quotes were submitted.
Coffee shop patio supporters were asked to contact the City of Chilliwack to get the patio back. But Mayor Sharon Gaetz made it clear to the Progress that they have no authority in this matter — only with capital improvement projects for the airport.
The building is owned by City of Chilliwack, but Magnum Management has the contractual obligation to maintain it to standards for public use.
City Hall staff have fielded a handful of calls and a dozen emails so far from coffee shop customers, irate that the patio is now closed.
Only Magnum, as head leaseholder, can negotiate these kind of issues with tenants.
“We are hopeful they will be able to come to some sort of agreement,” said Gaetz.
So what’s the relationship between Magnum and the coffee shop at this point?
“I would think it could be a lot better,” Atkins said.
There’s been significant effort to achieve compliance on a range of fronts.
So will the coffee shop be able to reopen their patio, and when?
“Any discussion of future use will have to be after recovery of repair costs,” Atkins said. “But I have not precluded any discussion about future use.”
They’re going to be talking about how to recover some or all of those costs, possibly by amortizing them.
That has yet to be worked out.
“Management recognizes how the coffee shop is iconic and brings traffic to the airport. Many of the long-term clientele, and seniors enjoy using the patio.
“We just have an obligation to ensure they are all kept safe,” said Atkins.
“We do hope this matter can be rectified and that an equitable solution can be found, so the coffee shop can continue to serve its customer base for years to come.”