Rebecca's Coffeehouse is being ousted. The South Park staple has been on the corner of Juniper and Fern streets for more than 20 years, offering up more than just a cup of joe — it has a long history of hosting open mics, jazz trios, and poetry readings.
I talked to the owner, Rebecca Zearing, on November 16, to ask how a "For Lease" sign ended up in her shop window.
"The owner, he gave [the building] to his son to run," said Zearing. "And his son, as he likes to tell you, is a Harvard MBA and went to USC, lives in Manhattan Beach."
Zearing said her landlord now wants $8700 a month. She said her previous rent was about half that.
"I talked to another woman," said Zearing. "She's a therapist. Same thing happened. Her life is now run by a 28-year-old kid."
Tony Franco, the realtor handling the lease listing, said, “I love Rebecca's. I loved open-mic nights. I played guitar myself. I think it's a cool spot."
Franco clarified that "The son is only helping his parents, he isn't taking over. The son is just helping to manage it now."
I asked Franco about the doubling of Zearing's rent to $8700.
"No. [The landlord] offered her the same space for a slight increase than what she had been paying. It was still well below the market rate and she never responded. So she was given notice to leave by the landlord."
Where did Zearing come up with the $8700 figure?
"She came up with that when we started marketing the property, once we couldn't strike a deal with her."
Franco said Zearing had been a month-to-month tenant for the past couple years before being asked to sign a new lease. Franco said after he was hired to lease the property, the property owner tried to work out something with Zearing because she was a longtime tenant. Franco said the property owner needed to raise the rent to keep up with the cost of living.
According to Franco, Zearing was given notice to vacate by sometime last week. As of November 16, she was still open for business when I called to interview her. Franco said the landlord is handing things over to his attorney to evict Zearing.
Since the listing went out, Franco said he has been getting calls non-stop from businesses wanting to lease the corner spot. He said he's been surprised at how many offers have been well above the market rate: no offers have been accepted yet and it's available for $9500 a month "or best offer."
I asked what kind of tenants are vying for the spot. Franco said they are all mom-and-pop shops. "No chains. No national name brands. South Park would kill me. Right, ‘Let's put in a Starbucks there.’ I'd be a dead man walking."
I wasn't able to touch base with Zearing again on November 16. I wanted to ask some follow-up questions based on my conversation with Franco.