NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – News 2’s Nashville 2021 series takes a look at Nashville’s growth, but also some of the problems that can come along with it.
Nashville’s Melrose neighborhood is on the rise and a beloved restaurant owner says he’s being forced to move out.
Mohammaed Rasras has been in the same location on 8th Ave. S for 16 years and it’s starting to settle in that he has to put his space in the rearview mirror.
“I’m very sad about this,” Rasras said. “I did not envision Athens and what we do to come to an end like this. It’s unfortunate.”
Like many restaurants, Athens suffered significant financial stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, but as soon as they reopened last May for dine-in service, business was looking positive. Offering delivery also kept them afloat. They received PPP money, but it was only enough to cover smaller expenses and payroll.
A decline in sales caused the restaurant to be past due on rent for two consecutive months. Although it was paid before the end of the month and the landlord was notified about the delay, it was enough to violate the terms.
“As soon as we made a small mistake, it happened,” said Rasras.
He says the property manager, HND Realty LLC, have been wanting to make changes to the property for more than a decade and this was their opportunity to act.
Not only does Athens have to find a new place to call home, they’re in the same boat as six other businesses, including Salon Fringe, Craft Vapor and Elise-Verne Creations.
News 2 reached out to HND Realty to find out what will happen to the lot on 8th Ave S. The company does not have a final plan, but intend to open a 7,000 sq. ft retail space. No future tenants have been confirmed. When Athens asked to reopen in the new space, Mohammed says he was denied.
“All of these big buildings you see on this street displaced small businesses that have been here for years and we are the latest victim,” Rasras said. “One thing I wish the landlord would do instead of kicking us out like this is that we are willing to wait a year until you rebuild. Do your thing, and then lease another shop from the construction to us, but they don’t even want to do this.”
While he can’t keep his current home, he’s hoping to find another place to continue their legacy. He is actively looking for a new location, but can’t do it on his own. In order to save Athens, he will need to work with people who are willing to invest in the brand.
“Our focus from the beginning has been providing gourmet meals for affordable prices,” Rasras said. “I think some people will be really disappointed because they call this place home. Some people come three times a day and it’s to the point where I see my customers, I know exactly what they want to order. This is going to be difficult for some people.”
Athens last day in Melrose is May 30th. Neighboring businesses have until June 30th to evacuate.
In addition to hopefully finding investors, Athens started a GoFundMe campaign.