Richmond restaurant owner claims she was evicted from her business with no warning

Posted at 6:08 PM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-29 11:19:44-04

SHORT PUMP, Va. — With a passion for cooking and an urge for a new beginning, Angela Lawrence opened Irie Vibes restaurant on Towne Center Boulevard in Short Pump in 2021. But almost two years later, she reached out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers after arriving to her Short Pump restaurant to find the locks had been changed and a notice taped on the door.

"My keys couldn't go in the door, it made me know something was wrong," Lawrence said. "I came to open that morning and I saw a note on the door saying that the property is seized and it now belongs to the Breeden (Company)."

She said she wasn't given any notice by phone or email that they would be closing doors.

"They changed the lock without notifying me and said they would give me 15 days to come up with the rest of the money to pay them off before I can come back in here," Lawrence said.

Lawrence said they told her the amount she owed was around $25,000.

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Irie Vibes

Earlier this year, Lawrence said The Breeden Company agreed to her paying reduced rent because of slow business. She said despite her paying that amount and continuing to catch up on payments, they closed her doors without warning.

"I emailed them to find out what happened and they did not respond to me," she said. "I called, email and no response up until now, it's like they ghosted me," Lawrence said.

Frustrated, confused, and hurt, Lawrence reached out to CBS 6 Problem Solvers hoping to get some answers.

"I’ve cried so much because all the money I had, I put into here and it just blew up," she said.

CBS 6 reached out to Breeden Company and received this statement:

"The Property Management Division of The Breeden Company takes great pride in working with our commercial property tenants when the financial requirements of their leases cannot be met. We have been working with Ms. Lawrence since February 2022, by providing a significant rent reduction with an agreed upon six-month deferral in an effort to help her catch up. Unfortunately, her unpaid debts continued to accrue and grow. As is standard procedure in the commercial property industry when a lease-agreement isn't met and all reasonable assistance efforts have been exhausted, we provide a notice of seizure by the landlord. It is our sincere hope that Ms. Lawrence can meet her financial obligations to The Breeden Company in a timely manner and resume operations at Irie Vibes Caribbean restaurant."

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers also spoke with a lawyer working in commercial real estate to ask about the business eviction process. She said, different from residential tenant laws, Virginia Code does give landlords the right to close a business without going to court, based on terms in the lease.

Lawrence said the one time she was able to speak to Breeden Company on the phone, the conversation was not helpful.

"She said to me well, we are commercial and we’re allowed to do that, put a note on the door and shut the door," Lawrence said.

Despite that being the only message Lawrence said she's received from them thus far, she has faith God will work everything out.

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Irie Vibes

"There is a god… and I don't just cook because I want to. I cook with love and passion and I want people to continue to enjoy my food in the community," she said.

Lawrence said she will continue to do what she loves, tabling and selling plates just outside her business. She's also started a GoFundMe to help with the $25,000 bill she said she was told had to be paid before doors could open.

Lawrence said the other Irie Vibes restaurant locations around Richmond are owned by someone with whom she is no longer partnered.

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