Neighbourhood pub owner faces eviction, possible bankruptcy

Two months into his two-year lease agreement, Micah Quinn is already scrambling to find another home for The Watershed Coffee Shop and Bar, a popular neighbourhood hang-out in Whitehorse's Old Town.

Two months into his two-year lease agreement, Micah Quinn is already scrambling to find another home for The Watershed Coffee Shop and Bar, a popular neighbourhood hang-out in Whitehorse’s Old Town.

That’s because last week he received an official notice of eviction from his landlord, giving him until the end of September to pack up and leave – or find an angel investor willing to purchase the property.

But the 34-year-old, who already works close to 100 hours a week, said he doesn’t know how he could find the time to move the business without shutting it down.

With bankruptcy “a real possibility,” he said it won’t be easy to find another location that is affordable, available, away from the downtown core and zoned commercially.

“I’m maxed out,” he said, adding that he was caught off guard by the letter.

“I’ve invested every cent I own and every amount of energy to get this place to this point. That’s why it’s grown so fast and been so successful. People love it and see that I worked really hard to make it happen.”

It all happened pretty quickly for Quinn, who said he received “verbal hints” last Wednesday, an e-mail on Thursday and the letter on Friday.

The landlord, Nerissa Rosati, was within her rights to send the letter, he said.

The terms of the lease dictate that either party can give 90 days’ notice without reason.

Quinn said he agreed to the terms because he thought three months would protect him, but never anticipated she would actually exercise the clause.

Neither party wanted to divulge the exact reasons for the eviction.

When asked, Rosati said Quinn had “contravened the lease agreement in several areas and continues to do so with complete disregard.”

She declined to elaborate on those areas but added that her vision for the property “didn’t align” with Quinn’s.

“I cannot continue to work with him in good faith,” she said.

Quinn, who also declined to go into the details, said he’d like to hear what Rosati’s vision for the property is.

But he did say that an outdoor patio and noise concerns had recently become issues.

At the time Quinn built the patio, he didn’t have a liquor license. But he eventually obtained one, and now patrons are allowed to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on site after 4 p.m.

“That’s something, perhaps, I should have communicated more clearly at the time,” Quinn said, “but she was out of the country.

“I didn’t see it as a major issue, and I don’t know why it would have been a major issue.

“This was two months ago, and it’s become an issue more recently.”

The patio closes down at 10:30 p.m. and Quinn said he’s made efforts to contain noise both on and off the property.

The Watershed often has musicians perform during the evenings and Sixth Avenue is a relatively busy street for pedestrians, he said.

Complaints have come from neighbours living behind the property, where houses are in close proximity to each other and the business.

Some people have suggested that Quinn shorten his working hours but he’s “really reluctant” to do that at this point.

“People love neighbourhood pubs, but with changes there’s more ‘not in my backyard,’” he said.

Quinn said one serious investor has shown interest in buying the property so far. But he believes it’s tied to another property, where the Yukon Artists @ Work were formerly housed in the MacRae area, and he estimated that would probably mean an investment of over $1 million.

When it comes down to it, property owners wield a lot of power – power they should use responsibly, he added.

And the city and territorial government have a responsibility to support entrepreneurs, too.

“Someone told me that for every business that fails, there are about 10 that don’t get off the ground as a result,” he said.

“If a business like this fails it discourages a lot of people from even trying.”

Since Quinn announced the news on The Watershed’s Facebook page, there has been a steady outpouring of support for the business.

One person commented that the building is the perfect size for Quinn’s business, and it’s a “shame” he’s not being allowed to grow.

“If Micah gets to the point where he needs to upgrade to a larger space and has been successful enough to afford it, than (sic) that’s when you wish him well and accept that your space was too small,” wrote Patrick Jacobson.

Quinn said he’s been so overwhelmed that reading some of the comments brought him to tears.

“I’ve never received so much love and support in my entire life.”

The Watershed is hosting an open house meeting on Monday, June 29, where people can brainstorm ideas for where the business could go and how it can survive, Quinn said.

The event starts at 5 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend. The Watershed is located at 6159 Sixth Avenue, on the corner of Alexander Street.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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