Perk on Main landlord: A restaurant is ‘not a good fit’ for the space

Perk on Main landlord: A restaurant is ‘not a good fit’ for the space


Perk on Main owner Katie Hughes-Nelson announced over social media that the popular restaurant would be “no more” at the end of its current lease at 6 Main St. in Durham.

“It doesn’t seem like we have any avenue of recourse,” to extend the lease, which expires at the end of December, 2017, Hughes-Nelson told the Town Times.

Hughes-Nelson has started the process of looking at other locations and wants to stay in Durham.

Hughes-Nelson said, “We’ve been committed to Durham. Durham has been so good to us through thick and thin. We had lots of growing pains along the way and we just felt committed to Durham. Whenever we’d announce a new location [people would ask] ‘Are you going to close Durham?’ and the answer was ‘No, we’ll never close Durham’ and I didn’t think we ever would.”

The disagreement with the landlord focuses on a water use restriction placed on Perk on Main’s lease in December, 2016. That new lease, which was shorter than the older lease, contained a water restriction of 260 gallons per day.

Hughes-Nelson said Perk on Main made efforts to meet those restrictions, including closing the restaurant at 4 p.m. instead of staying open for dinner and switching to compost-able plates. The effort was complicated, according to Hughes-Nelson, because for years the restaurant operated without a water restriction and due to a water meter error never had an accurate account of its water usage.

The restaurant could not bring its water usage down from “north of 800 gallons a day” to 260 gallons a day. Hughes-Nelson said, “That [goal] was really lofty ... and we can achieve great things ... we really worked really hard to try to minimize our water usage and we got down to about 375 gallons a day on average, which is a really good accomplishment and I was hoping that our landlord would see that as such a great effort and a decrease and we were moving in the right direction.”

The inability to meet that level was cited as the reason in the certified letter for non-renewal of the lease.

Reached by the Town Times, Pat Dinatale, owner or 6 Main Street LLC, said that the water usage was the biggest issue. Perk on Main, Dinatale said, went “way over throughout the years” on water usage.

Although the tenants actually pay for their water usage it is a landlord concern, according to Dinatale, because excessive water can strain the septic system of the entire property. If the system fails, Dinatale said, “the rest of the tenants could be in trouble.”

Also, Dinatale acknowledged that the tenant-landlord relationship went south and said that contributed to the non-renewal. “She was abusing the system, so I just can’t” renew the lease, Dinatale said.

Dinatale could not recall the origin of the figure of 260 gallons per day and claimed it was a state requirement but did not provide a specific source.

Reported water usage for restaurants within the industry and government agencies vary widely, from 500 to 1,500 gallons of water per day for quick service restaurants to full service restaurants at 5,800 gallons or more. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American home uses more than 300 gallons of water per day, 40 gallons more than Perk on Main’s lease limit.

Hughes said she announced the location’s closing because she did not want her employees and customers to find out through rumors as she started searching for options.

The reaction has been “tremendous,” Hughes-Nelson said. “People are upset about it and I think they’re curious about it too. As a business, we have a strong commitment to the community and we have prided ourself on being a community gathering place and I wish our landlord would feel that same commitment to Durham ... and to us.”

People in Durham have been reacting to the announcement with sadness and anger on social media. As of press time, the announcement has gathered 279 comments, many displaying shock, pleas to stay in Durham, and invitations from other commentors to relocate to their town.

Perk on Main opened in Durham in 2002 and moved to the 6 Main St. location in 2007. Hughes said, “I love this space so much ... I’ve loved walking through this door everyday for 10 years. We’re not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves but there’s a lot of sadness that goes along with the idea of it.”

The different Perk restaurants, which include a location in Middletown and one in Guilford and a Perk on Wheels truck, all serving crepes and coffee, employ about 30 people, according to Hughes-Nelson. The employees transfer between locations and Hughes-Nelson estimates that the Durham location is responsible for about 20 of them.

Dinatale said he has not heard any of the negative reaction to the news and said options to prevent closing are out there. “There’s plenty of space in Durham. She can move wherever she wants.”

Dinatale said he does not have plans for the space, but would not lease to another restaurant because of the water usage. “It’s not a good fit,” Dinatale said.


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