Longtime St. Johns eatery says it's being evicted before lease ends

A longtime eatery in St. Johns is being forced to close by Christmas. The owner said she's being evicted.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the landlord's response.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- From the outside you wouldn't know it, but head into the James John Cafe and you'll quickly figure out why people have been patrons for a decade.

"This has always been a cafe I've come to, just like to get shelter, food, coffee, just to hang out and wait for the bus when I didn't have a car," said customer Samantha O'Reilly.

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From a marlin on the wall, to a Santa antelope, to the Halloween cat and snowman statue on the counter, it's got it all. It's quirky and seems to ooze what makes Portland, Portland. But the owner said she's being evicted.

"Hopefully I'll find a spot in the neighborhood," said Suzanne Bozarth, the owner of the neighborhood cafe.

But there's no guarantee. The restaurant is closing by Christmas.

The news is tough for a lot of longtime customers.

"Real rough," said Kim Savage. She's been coming to the restaurant since day one.

"[Bozarth] is an excellent bartender, she's a great baker. She's just a pillar of the community. She just wants to make people happy," said Savage.

The lengthy piece of register tape that was piling up on the floor showed just how many people stopped in on Sunday. Some came for a bite to eat.

"It's a bummer. I got one last sweet potato hash for my memories," O'Reilly said.

Others gave donations to Bozarth and her employees who, just before Christmas, will need to find another job. Bozarth said she appreciates the St. Johns community and Portland restaurants that have rallied around her.

"It makes the closing a little bit easier to know that you have that kind of support out there," Bozarth said.

Bozarth said she's being told to pack up and leave even though her lease isn't up.

She said the building is owned by U.S. Capital Trust, but has been managed by three different property management companies since the cafe opened 10 years ago. According to Bozarth, she signed a lease with the second management company that ends in November 2017. But the new property management company, Hanna Real Estate Network, is only honoring a 10-year lease from the first management company. Bozarth said the company did not offer her a rent increase.

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Bozarth said she could fight and maybe win a few more months in the space, but she has been fighting breast cancer and decided to let the lease go.

In a response to KGW, Donald Hanna, president of Hanna Network, said his is a local company that cares deeply about the community, and they are enforcing the terms of the lease within the law.

"While I cannot speak to the specifics of this matter as this is private. I will say that this lease has been in a holdover situation for many years," he said. "There were other issues of the lease that repeated efforts to correct went unresolved. Ms Bozarth made no effort to resolve these matters. This left us no other alternative than to ask Ms Bozarth to vacate. We are sensitive to the timing of this vacancy and we voluntarily offered to give her additional time which she and her attorney agreed to."

Hanna said the property owner has plans to improve the property, which is a historic former bank building.

Despite the less-than-perfect circumstances, Bozarth said she's determined to keep making people happy.

"I'm not done. I love what I do. I love it," she said.

The cafe's last day is Christmas Eve. It will be open for brunch from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.