Housing Complex

Reeves Center Deli Claims Political Vendetta in City’s Eviction Attempt

On the way out? (Lydia DePillis)

Fitwi "John" Tekeste has operated his Municipal Deli in the Reeves Center on U Street for the last 20 years. And he's pretty sure that the city's recent move to end that run is just revenge by outgoing Fenty officials.

"It's kind of political. The problem is, I support Mr. Gray," he says, surrounded by papers in a partitioned office at the back of the huge space. "So they got upset with me. When they lost, they try to kick me out."

The Department of Real Estate Services, on the other hand, says that they issued a notice to quit on December 21–a month after then-director Robin Eve Jasper announced her departure–because Tekeste is $345,044.88 in arrears on rent payments since 2000. The rent has been unbelievably low, coming out to about $12 per square foot for the 2,689-square-foot space, which is less than a third of market rate.

"As the Department of Real Estate Services works to minimize costs, we can no longer justify providing valuable retail space at Reeves to select businesses for free or minimal rent," the notice reads.  The Municipal Deli's lease was up in April, and DRES now plans to issue a new solicitation for tenants, which Tekeste may answer along with anyone else.

But Tekeste says things are more complicated. Regarding the gaps in his payment history, he says had been granted a partial abatement in rent by the Williams administration for performing renovations on his space, which stalled when Adrian Fenty was elected. In 2009, he says he struck a verbal agreement with DRES officials–who work eight floors up–to not pay rent while he was re-doing his electrical systems.

It's possible that Tekeste is a victim of historically incompetent management at the Reeves Center, which allowed him to go a decade without warning him of issues with his rent, giving a new administration cause to kick him out just by finally enforcing the rules–as of February 2, DRES isn't buying Tekeste's protestations, reiterating that he must leave by Feburary 21.

Patrons have started a support campaign with a notice on the deli counter, but this one might be a lost cause.

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  • Flippy Six

    Not pay rent for 10 years? GIVE HIM THE BOOT!

  • Sally

    A verbal no-rent agreement?

    Uh huh.

  • reeves employee

    None of the businesses in the Reeves transact much business.
    I'd be very surprised if any of them could afford even 1/5th market rate.

  • Southeast Ken

    Evict the guy already.

  • 11th

    just don't evict duke. that would be too wrong.

  • Drez

    He's nice enough, sure But does Does Duke actually shine shoes, or is his shop just an off location closet where people can dump old shoes they don't want anymore?
    I've never seen him shine or fix anything. And he's sitting in a prime corner spot. At taxpayer expense.
    Just telling the truth....

  • Rick Mangus

    No pay, no stay!

  • Hillman

    Come on, folks. This has DC 'business as usual' written all over it.

    Evict this guy,and put someone in that will actually pay rent.

    And we wonder why the DC budget is broke.

  • Adrian Bent-Me

    While verbal contracts are valid in DC, they aren't binding, meaning that unless our buddy here can prove (taped conversation in hand) that he had this arrangement, he has no case. He'll just be wasting more taxpayers dollars on a fight that he can't win. And almost $350k in
    "abatements" in the past decade. Get real and get out.

  • Timour

    Fitwi has a sense of entitlement as grandiouse as of.. I can't think of anyone actually.

    Give him the boot, but good. There are plenty of business in the corridor that pay rent and taxes. Utopia is one of them.

    Fitwi, just go away.

  • Get Real

    Fitwi and his "deli" make money hand over fist with all of the lottery tickets they sell, the varying pricing of food and beverages in the store (varying pricing all dependent on Fitwi's gambling debt. One day you'll pay $1.49 for a soda and the next day you'll pay $1.59).

    Good riddance. Bring a real restaurant into a space that will keep the place clean and actually use counters and suitable workspaces for food preparation instead of a mixed up and messed up gathering of old furniture that Fitwi finds on the street.

  • dirtyjelly


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