With Lack Of Parking, Closed Streets
And Fewer Patrons, Restaurant Owner, Others Having Financial Hardship
January 17, 2005
By MELISSA PIONZIO, Courant Staff Writer
Business was good when Wahid Ahmed opened Spice
Indian Cuisine about three years ago in space he rented at 89 Arch St.,
on the edge of Hartford's downtown.
He was pleased as the lunch and dinner crowds continued to grow. But his good
fortune changed with the building of Adriaen's Landing.
"Now there is construction - it is really bad for my business," said Ahmed, a
native of Bangladesh who moved to Hartford from New York City in 2002. "I am
almost going out of business."
Ahmed, who has a wife and two small children, is also paying for two homes in
Manchester. If he had more money, he would open a business in another location,
he said. Otherwise, he will have to close Spice and find another job or give
up everything and move from the state.
With construction equipment constantly parked nearby and a big hole where the
restaurant's paved property once was, Ahmed's customers no longer have a convenient
place to park, he said. Metered parking is available on the street, but because
of all the work being done on nearby Columbus Boulevard and to the Whitehead
Highway, foot traffic is down to nothing, he said. Portions of Columbus Boulevard
are closed to traffic.
Adriaen's Landing, a $600 million state project, is being developed on 33 acres
along the Connecticut River. It will feature a 500,000-square-foot Connecticut
Convention Center, a hotel, entertainment, retail and residential venues, and
a cultural attraction.
"There are big trucks always coming in and I think that people are just afraid
to come," he said. "Most sales are coming from deliveries; nobody is coming
in any more. If things don't change I'm going to have to close my business."
Ahmed said he needs money to pay the rent he has missed over the past five months,
or to help him get a new start somewhere else. He asked for help from the city
but was told he is not eligible for assistance because he rents the space, he
"They are not helping me, but will only help my landlord, and I am getting pressure
from my landlord to pay rent," he said.
The city referred Ahmed to the state Capital City Economic Development Authority,
which oversees the Adriaen's Landing project.
The authority's spokesman, Dean Pagani, said the group has been talking with
Ahmed about his predicament since September. Because Ahmed is a renter, the authority
cannot help him because state law allows for assistance only to property owners,
Pagani said. The authority has tried to work with the property's owner, Mark
C. Yellin, to ease the strain on Ahmed.
"But Yellin rejected the offers we made," Pagani said. "I think the bottom line
is, the only way we could offer some real assistance is if we could have some
control over the property, and he was unwilling to give up any control."
Pagani said the Capital City Economic Development Authority offered Yellin money
in return for easements on his property, which is rented to Ahmed and to Joe
and Dianne Butler, who own Capitol Caterers.
"We offered a negative easement, cash to the landlord so he wouldn't do certain
things, like expand the property or interfere with the project that is underway," Pagani
said. "But he said no."
Yellin could have used the money from the authority to help cover the back rent
that is owed to him and, depending on the amount he received, future rent payments
until the construction eases in June.
"The money would have gone to Yellin, and what he would have done with it would
have been up to him," Pagani said. "But there would be an understanding that
it would go to help his tenants."
From his Florida home, Yellin, who owns Mark C. Yellin & Associates, a
real estate investment firm in Farmington, called the offer ridiculous and
blamed the authority for ruining Ahmed's business.
"They didn't offer any specific amounts, just two documents, and I thought they
were making a mistake, that they had sent me something meant for someone else," Yellin
If he had accepted the negative easement offers, Yellin would not have been allowed
to lease the property for anything other than a restaurant, he said. The other
document, he said, would have prevented expansion. Yellin said he plans to add
a rooftop patio.
"It's zoned for a bar, a restaurant, fast food, coffee shop. ... Why would I
limit the next 100 years' leases to just a restaurant?" Yellin said. "If it's
zoned for something you should be able to do it, that's the law."
The Butlers said the construction has hurt their business too. No foot traffic
means no more walk-ins, said Joe Butler, and the construction trucks on Arch
Street make it difficult for them to park and load their delivery van with catering
"In general most of the guys that work construction are very helpful," Dianne
Butler said Thursday. "But today a truck wouldn't let us out. ... These guys
in the trucks say the road is closed and don't realize that there are businesses
Yellin doesn't seem to care, the Butlers said. They said they hope Yellin will
accept an offer they have made regarding their rental payments.
"He thinks this place is going to be booming this next year and he has all these
big people wanting to rent this place," Dianne Butler said. "So he doesn't
care if we are out of here."
Business also has decreased at the Arch Street Tavern, at 85 Arch St. next to
Ahmed's and the Butlers' businesses. Collins Brothers LLC owns this separate
brick structure, and the tavern, which has been in business on Arch Street for
about 27 years, is owned by Arch Street Enterprises.
"It's definitely been slower since the construction started, especially in July," said
Scott Tedford, the tavern's night bar manager. "Our business did drop down
more than we expected, but it's a little bit better now that there is more
Tedford said parking is available next to the building once the construction
trucks clear out and at a small parking area up the street. Traffic is often
congested because of the construction, he said, but it is possible to get through.
"We definitely have a lot of regular customers that have really helped us out," he
said. "It's a struggle. We have no plans to close. We are just trying to get
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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