Art Cafe Hemingway facing eviction

  • Markus Boemer / Special to The Garden Island

    Markus and Jana Boemer celebrate in Art Cafe Hemingway.

  • Markus Boemer / Special to The Garden Island

    Markus and Jana Boemer.

  • Sabrina Bodon / The Garden Island

    The two-story Art Cafe Hemingway sits along Kuhio Highway.

KAPA‘A — A once-bustling cafe and its owners are now on the brink of eviction facing a back rent of over $25,000 and less than 10 days to either pay that sum or turn in their keys.

Markus Boemer and his wife, Jana, own Art Cafe Hemingway.

Since leasing the property nine years ago, they’ve spent over $200,000 in renovation costs, including building an outside patio; bringing gas, electricity and water up to code; and turning the upstairs into a habitable space with two bedrooms, loft and living space. This also happens to be their home.

When the first cases of the coronavirus came about, income plummeted. Under state orders in mid-March, the cafe closed its doors for dine-in service, a core draw to the business. Normally, including rent, electricity, insurance and payroll, the cafe had an overhead of about $20,000 per month.

“We are not known as a fast-food pickup and go,” Markus Boemer said. “Customers come here, they sit here, they talk, they eat, they drink. Our goal was not turning tables; we try to create an atmosphere.”

But, it’s what they had to do. The cafe began offering pick-up and delivery, using social media to raise awareness, but business dropped by nearly 100%. The costs of produce Jana uses to cook everything from scratch, Boemer said, was higher than the income generated by takeout.

The Boemers signed the 10-year lease in September 2011, with Jasper Properties, LLC, and was handed to 82 12 Hawai‘i, LCC a few years ago. Boemer could not share the lease per a confidentiality clause.

At the end of March, Boemer sent landlord Richard Jasper of 82 12 Hawai‘i, an email requesting a rent deferral for April’s $6,528 rent, citing the pandemic’s impact on business. They offered to pay $1,000 per month going forward, more if emergency loan funding come through.

As of July, they owe a back rent of $25,287.04.

In a letter dated May 25, Jasper acknowledged the cafe’s hardships, but wrote that $1,000 a month was “not at a level that is agreeable/manageable to the Landlord”.

“Markus, I also have my own financial obligations.” Jasper wrote. “Markus, if you truly believe that your business operations will never be viable, then the Landlord must get the premise back, and try and mitigate the overall tenant rental obligations…”

Jasper did not respond to requests for comment.

For the last year, the couple has been trying to sell the cafe. In a letter from Boemer to Jasper, he asks if the rent could be reduced to make the sale more appealing to a potential buyer under the current pandemic circumstances.

After the Boemers reduced the price by 50% down to $70,000, interested buyers were unable to visit the island due to quarantines. Boemer wanted to use the sale to both get out of the business and make up the rent. They’ve gone into escrow three times, most recently in June with an interested buyer from O‘ahu, but then received a notice of legal action on July 2.

“On behalf of my client, if you do not pay back rent within 10 days of receipt of this notice, we request you turn over the premises immediately so that my client can mitigate damages by renting the premises out to a paying tenant,” the letter reads from attorney Craig DeCosta.

The letter also offers the opportunity to “make a substantial payment of the unpaid rent within 10 days” and discuss a payment plan option for the remainder. DeCosta was unavailable for comment Monday.

Notably, the letter from the attorney informed Boemer that per the lease, furniture, fixtures and equipment on the property are considered collateral for the rental shortfalls, “therefore, none of these items should be sold or removed from the premises until all rents owed are current.”

Boemer wishes he and his wife never signed their lease.

Their daughter, Leilani Boemer, set up a GoFundMe, sharing her parents’ situation. As of Monday night, the GoFund Me had raised over $10,100 of a $25,000 goal, with over 120 donors.

Overwhelmed by the community response, Markus said one customer has retained a lawyer on their behalf, whom he is awaiting more information from moving forward.

“I’m still processing,” Boemer said. “We’ll see what happens, do what we can and roll up our sleeves.”

•••

Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

25 Comments
  1. randy kansas July 14, 2020 2:40 am Reply

    hire a lawyer because you cannot pay your rent, not very honorable…just another reason people hate lawyers…
    a deal is a deal….


    1. Farah July 14, 2020 8:40 pm Reply

      Wow. Not much compassion huh?


    2. kandy rancid July 15, 2020 3:17 pm Reply

      While the current tenants are gone and no one else is paying rent there, how will the owner be making any money at all? Offering to pay SOME when they can’t pay all seemed very reasonable. It’s short sighted for the owner to act this way.


    3. kauaibest July 15, 2020 3:55 pm Reply

      Read the article it clearly says that someone ELSE hired one on their behalf. I’m pretty sure if there’s a freeze on evictions that it’s a good idea to look into it then walk away from everything you built for the last 10 years.


  2. Jay Berry July 14, 2020 7:16 am Reply

    Lesson learned here Kauai, never ever go in to business with the Jasper’s. Ruthless; heartless souls – even during a pandemic. They don’t care about anyone but themselves and of course money.


  3. Peter July 14, 2020 9:04 am Reply

    And now their business is going to be shut down for another month, and maybe longer. It’s heartbreaking but the harsh reality of the tourist quarantine restrictions. Don’t blame the landlord, most small commercial property landlord’s resources are limited. Blame the county and state government for not providing enough financial help for small business owners who have had to stay closed for so long because a PPP loan can’t help in that case.


  4. Westside Resident July 14, 2020 9:23 am Reply

    According to Kawakami you are non-essential. So get over it, go learn a second language and make yourself useful.


    1. Wow July 15, 2020 3:18 pm Reply

      Slightly less racist than normal. I guess that’s progress.


  5. Rick July 14, 2020 9:28 am Reply

    Sad but these people need to cut their losses. If you think business has been hard these last few months, you haven’t seen nothing yet…


  6. kauaiboy July 14, 2020 9:47 am Reply

    Back in 1999, Richard Jasper of JJ’S Broiler and Ed MacDowell of Vision Properties offered a bounty of $1,000 for the alleged “Wailua River Snake”. It turns out that Jasper is a “Kauai Snake”, seeking to evict a couple who ran a successful business in an area of Kapaa Jasper wants to rule with an iron hand, and using the Covid-crisis as a tool in his greed.

    Well, he cannot evict them from their living quarters for now and their GoFundMe account is gaining speed, enabling them to hire a lawyer and fight Jasper for a more reasonable resolution.

    I have happily contributed and I encourage everyone else who favors the hard-working “little guys” to go to GoFundMe and search “Hemingway” and give what you can. Mahalo.


    1. SimpleSolutions July 15, 2020 2:01 pm Reply

      I will not go to JJs Broiler anymore.


  7. simple July 14, 2020 10:23 am Reply

    Where is the Aloha?

    I understand that the property owners have their own bills to cover, however I do not understand how they are going to “mitigate their losses by finding a paying tenant”?

    Commercial property vacancies were high on Kauai before the pandemic and will only get higher as businesses close for good due to Covid-19. Who is going to rent this space until life on Kauai gets back to normal? The drop in business is not because of something that the Boemers did to their business. The drop came with high unemployment, no tourism, and the fears related to Covid-19.

    No way the Jaspers find a “paying tenant” anytime soon, There was a time when relationships matter…ten years of tenancy while putting their own money into the building should matter here. It is times like this when tenants and landlords need to come together as Ohana and ride this out together.

    Boemers need to apply for PPP if they have not done so already.

    In times like this some income is better than none. Jasper’s take the $1000 per month. When we get past this pandemic, life on Kauai will get back to normal and Art Cafe Hemingway will once again return to a successful business. Jasper needs to realize how valuable it is to have a tenant with a long history of success over taking a risk on finding that next successful business.

    Kauai is a small island and let’s look out for each other.


  8. Joe Public July 14, 2020 10:41 am Reply

    Well, the landlord has obligations too, wish I could tell my bank that instead of paying my $6000 mortgage a month, I will just pay $1000 now.

    Can’t have everything free…most of us are suffering too.


    1. Jane July 15, 2020 3:21 pm Reply

      First, if you’re paying $6k per month, you’re either doing well or living way beyond your means already.

      Second, there are, in fact, programs for people with mortgage companies to negotiate when things like this happen.


  9. Kaaona Kipuka July 14, 2020 2:56 pm Reply

    AAAAAALLLLLLOOOOHHHHHHAAAA!!!


  10. Robyn Machney July 14, 2020 5:33 pm Reply

    This restaurant has been there at least 15 years, hasn’t it? Sounds like the owners really lived their dream and created a beautiful addition to the island. It’s sad when things crumble down… but signs point to moving on, not hiring a lawyer & fighting this typical Kauai greedy landlord. Wonder who Jasper thinks is going to pay that kind of rent in an economy going bust. He could certainly give them more time at least, he’s not going to get his rent money. They created an amazing space out of a ramshackle building at their own expense, that he can probably rent for more one day. Probably not now though.


  11. Kauaidoug July 14, 2020 5:38 pm Reply

    $6000 for rent? It is a lot but when they looked at a business opportunity there were hundreds of cars driving by. Who knows what the actual cost of that building is to the landlord but I doubt if it’s anywhere near that. Anyone who has looked at commercial property to rent on Kaua’i knows the rents are more than sky high, all based on a lot of tourists in island. All I have to say is if the landlord needs 6000$ to make his obligations then good luck to him. Ain’t nobody going to be able to pay that. It’s a very sad situation and I am afraid this is just the beginning. As a former business owner I feel for the Boemers and wish them the best results.


  12. Lindap July 14, 2020 5:39 pm Reply

    This is a true struggle for all Kauai family owned restaurants and businesses. This restaurant may survive due to a go fund me. Many restaurants with the same struggles not asking for a hand out. Just support all local businesses with you patronage. This is not isolated to Hemingways.


  13. Logan July 14, 2020 6:06 pm Reply

    What does Jasper think will happen after eviction? No one will buy the spot and start paying rent on it. It will be years that the property sits empty.. If every landlord took this approach then all restaurants would be gone in less than 6 months.


  14. brandy topeka July 14, 2020 10:39 pm Reply

    so pushing your tenants out during a pandemic which is eliminating their livelihood? THAT’S not very honorable. basic humanity and ‘the right thing to do’ supersedes any financial deal. landlords have expenses as well, yes of course, but if you can’t at least counter offer your tenants by lowering payments to equal the mortgage payment for now, then landlord is a truly horrible person. and a terrible business person to boot.


  15. Citizen Cane July 15, 2020 4:44 am Reply

    Having owned and run several restaurants here and on the mainland I’m totally sympathetic to these folks’ plight. I’m also currently a land lord—and I have to wonder, what’s Jasper gonna do with the space? It’s not like ppl are dying to open restaurants (or anything for that matter) these days. Restaurants can’t survive on 50% occupancy. There are no mainland buyers. Jasper will be empty with no rent revenue for the duration it takes to find new operators. Why not take your tenants’ offer of reduced rent, then down the road when they’re able to find a buyer they can pay your rent back from the proceeds, or have a shot at recovery and get back on track with the back rent. Jasper’s got a tough reputation. It’d be a good time to be a mensch and find some heart.


  16. andrew July 15, 2020 7:45 am Reply

    Can they find a different place to run Cafe? A nice space with good parking? That building will be another empty space, and the owner will have no income then too. Small business property owners will be the next to fall during this prolonged crises. What a shame…


  17. LJ July 15, 2020 8:38 am Reply

    There’s a moratorium on residential evictions, why not commercial evictions where businesses were forced to close.


  18. Kauaigal July 15, 2020 8:39 am Reply

    This is ridiculous. So the owners of the building would rather have it sit empty than come to an agreement with the cafe owners? Selfish, self centered and greedy. The community loves this restaurant. This is the most profound health and economic crisis most people have ever experienced. Can’t you come to some kind of agreement??


    1. Kaaona Kipuka July 15, 2020 3:25 pm Reply

      That’s funny. I don’t remember receiving the poll/survey about “loving this establishment”… because I don’t and most “locals” that I know don’t either…so go ahead and evict and board it up…then go have lunch at JJ’s Broiler…lol


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