Palo Alto Weekly: Liddicoat's may close
Publication Date: Jan 19, 1994

DOWNTOWN: Liddicoat's may close

Restaurants' leases ending, tenants fear eviction

Peter Gauvin

Liddicoat's, the downtown Palo Alto restaurant mall that was the birthplace of the Mrs. Fields cookie franchise but has overcome an array of problems in its 16-year history, may face one more obstacle--its closure. The restaurant owners say their leases run out this month and are in the dark about how long Premiere Property Management, which manages the building at 322 University Ave., will allow them to stay. They have been offered only a month-to-month lease after Jan. 31. Although the building's owners are tight-lipped, the restaurateurs say they aware that the owners have discussed having the building renovated and are looking for new tenants.

"We're feeling very bad," said Mustafa Kasim, who has owned and operated the Bon Appetit Mediterranean food counter in Liddicoat's for 14 years. "My family came from Iraq, forced out by Saddam Hussein. Now somebody wants to kick out 25 to 30 families that make their living here so they can make more money."

Dimples Gaines, who owns Dimples & Company barbecue and bar at the other end of the international food mall, knew nothing more. "Everybody is up in suspense," she said. "(The property managers) don't know anything either."

Gaines, who has another restaurant in East Palo Alto, said she enjoys the location and would hate to move. But, she said, she is in better position than most of the other family-run businesses in the food mall which would have difficulty affording another location in the Palo Alto area.

Several other proprietors in the food mall declined to discuss the situation.

Gaines said conditions in the building improved considerably three years ago after health code violations were found and the building was closed temporarily. But another one of the tenants, who wished not to be identified, said that many problems persist and blamed the owner, George Liddicoat, and the property managers for not making improvements to the building in recent years to keep business healthy.

"There's nothing to say about this now," said John Baer, president of Premiere Properties. "There's nothing firm there."

Baer said he could not confirm if the tenants will be allowed to stay on a month-to-month basis at the end of this month. "I don't want to sound like a broken record, but we don't have anything solid yet."

Liddicoat's was built in 1923 on the site of Nortree Hall, a barn-like, two-story structure that served as Palo Alto's first public meeting hall and community center. For most of its history Liddicoat's operated as a popular grocery store. When it was converted into a restaurant mall, one of its initial tenants was 20-year-old Debbie Fields, who opened her first Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery outlet there in 1977.

George Liddicoat said the entire building is in need of "major reconstruction" and, in that event, the restaurants would have to closed. "In any case, there would probably be a year's notice or something like that. There are no plans at all yet. We'll continue on the way we are," he said.1 @jumphead:Liddicoats

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