Tegeste Ethiopian Restaurant Abruptly Closes in Columbia Heights – Landlord Posts Returned Rent Check

Back in Nov. ’10 we first learned that a new Ethiopian restaurant, Tegeste, would be opening up in Columbia Heights at 3521 14th St, NW in the old Catti Mexican Restaurant space (which had been closed for years.) In Dec. ’10 they had applied for a liquor license and just last month they got a great new sign. Word on the street (and here) had been very positive. Unfortunately on Friday I started to receive numerous emails saying that their sign was gone and a for rent sign had been placed in the front window.

I went to check it out on Saturday and unfortunately it is true the restaurant has been closed. In addition to a for rent sign there is also a small sheet of paper under the for rent sign taped up on the front window. The landlord (presumably it was the landlord) posted a canceled rent check showing that there were insufficient funds in the bank. Seems a bit harsh but I don’t know the whole story. If Tegeste is able to open up in a new space I’ll be sure to update.

47 Comment

  • Nice…a little public shaming goes a long way. People no longer feel shame on their own, you have to force them into it, and I think that generally people would conduct themselves better if they feared some public shaming would come out of it.

    And just how bad is business if you can’t afford to pay a ~1200 rent check?

    • I thought the same re: 1200 rent. Seems pretty cheap. However, I question the legality of posting banking information (routing #, account #) in public, regardless of how much $ is in the account.

  • The check is dated October 2010 so looks like this was an old or perhaps continuing issue (also at least in the pic you don’t see the acct # and routing # is of course, public info).

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Ed. Note: I intentionally cropped the routing/acct #s from the photo used here.

      • But the account number is still posted on the window for all to see…

        Re: the earlier point about public shaming. This has actually become a recurring topic of conversation among myself and friends, but usually it’s in the context of individuals who have committed crimes – not a business that couldn’t make it’s rent payment. I agree with PoP that this seems a bit harsh. I know that a lot of places have to move or go out of business because of high rent prices (which, true, this does not seem fall in the category of sky-high rent but everyone has their own financial issues), but to post a canceled check in the window just seems unnecessary. If the landlord still felt it “necessary” to point out that the restaurant’s owners couldn’t make rent (and I don’t know why it’s our business, really), then a note could have been posted stating as much.

        And, on a final note – I really loved this place. I admit that I haven’t been in awhile so I’m not one to talk, but I guess I just usually eat Ethiopian food in cooler weather. My friends and I always made a point to frequent this place during that past winter/spring. The food was better than any other Ethiopian place we’d been, plus the prices were amazing (perhaps part of the problem?) and the owners and staff were among the nicest people I’ve met. I should have gone more – Tegeste will be missed!

        • I don’t see the difference as to why businesses should be exempt from public shaming.

          Why is it when situations like this occur it is always the “poor restaurant owner” vs the mean landlord?

          The restaurant has obviously been having problems paying their rent for some time, yet the landlord has still had his bills to pay. His property tax/mortgage/utility bills on the property haven’t stopped coming.

          As is usual with cases like this, the rent is usually the last thing the store/restaurant owner stops paying, usually it starts with them witholding the sales tax from the treasury which is robbing all of us, then its witholding the FICA tax on their employees from uncle sam.

          Why aren’t we supposed to feel bad for the laundry list of entities that are caused suffering by their inability to pay?

          I agree with the top poster. I think that people would generally conduct themselves better if they knew that there was a chance of some serious embarrasment as a result of their poor action.

          • because business is business. and it aint yours. they had an agreement. one side failed to live up to it. the agreement is over. shaming is not needed. a lack of income is generally sufficient.

          • Joker,

            Who said anything about exempting the restaurant? A notice stating “The tenant’s repeated failure to pay his monthly rent on this space has led to his eviction.” Every bit as shameful, without the account numbers out in the open.

  • I have a feeling that Gladys Nunez is going to end up in court for this.

  • This seems like a great deal for $1250 a month. Can I move in there?

    • if you open a restaurant.
      there may be other costs too. like build out and property taxes, repairs, maintenance, insurance, etc…

    • If you knew the tenant’s situation, you could have cut a deal where you go in 50/50 on the rent. They get to run the restaurant, and you get to (illegally) sleep on a futon in the storage closet and shower in the commercial sink. Not a bad deal for $625 a month…

      • Not a good deal. I used to illegally sleep in failing ethnic restaurants for only $400/month. Rent these days is craaazy!

  • This is beyond messed up…

    The landlord should be ashamed for airing a private business dispute in the open like that. Posting a cancelled check on a store window? Seriously, is this “Gladys” person insane?

    Was there a clause in the lease which stated “In case of delinquent rent tenant shall be publicly shamed and bank account numbers shall be posted for the public to view”…?

  • I really liked this place. The food was awesome. It was by far my favorite Ethiopian place. They will be missed.

  • Is that a PoP sighting in the window reflection?

  • “seems a bit harsh but I don’t know the whole story” – not paying their rent seems a lot more harsh to the landlord than them being shamed, to be honest…

  • I believe the same landlord owns the Red Rocks building. Pay your rent, Red Rocks!

  • I too loved the food here, but I’ve got to honest: it doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve seldom seen it even half-full, and the service, while friendly, was often glacially slow. I will really miss their meat-sampler platter tho. Ah well.

  • This really bums me out. Not only was Mama Tegest one of the sweetest and most gracious hosts you could hope for in a restaurant, the food was outstanding and all of the staff was friendly. We got an Ethiopian wine overview by their booze importer, a kitchen tour, and even a late-night chat about African politics. CoHi needs more places like this, and losing Tegeste is a real shame. It’s beyond me that people here are delighting in the public shaming of a sweet lady who put herself out there to open a business. People like you should be the ones being publicly shamed for making this city a far bitchier, ruder, and less pleasant place to live than it would be if we had more Mama Tegest’s around.

    • only a few people are giddy over the public shaming. there are always a few foolish jokers.

    • +1.

      Mama Tegeste was a real gem in the neighborhood. I hope she can make a come back.

      • Thumbs up, Plus one, whatever Myspace does, to “Sads” comment. Couldn’t agree more.

        Mama Tegest was a star. Whenever I went in there, and it was very frequently, she was friendly, bubbly, and delightful. Her Ethiopian food was top-notch; better than anything in Adams Morgan. I really hope she can open a new place soon, as her style was much needed in DC. Clearly publically shaming her, a struggling small business owner in this tough economy, is not the appropriate thing to do. Reading the negative comments here truly disgusts me. Shame on you, DC.

        • The truth is that if someone stole $1250 from you, you’d be hollering and fantasizing about a lot more than posting a bounced check.

          Like Joker says, in all likelihood the restaurateur owes the landlord thousands of dollars, and has caused months of stress, sleepless nights, etc. Imagine if each month, someone robbed you of $1250. Would you be angry or forgiving (like now)? Would you still be a great champion of the deadbeat at that point?

          Don’t be naive.

          • what you’re expressing strikes me as naive. i’m sure you think you’re in the right, but it really sounds like this kind of situation has not been something you’ve dealt with in your work.

            business is business. and no, it’s not like robbery.

          • I think you are 19 years old, plus or minus 1 year.

            This is something I’ve dealt with. When people don’t pay you money you’re owed, it hurts you — monetarily and psychologically. 😉

            I’ve had employers stiff me. It sucks. Stiffing good people is not a positive act. Are you saying that cheating people is a good thing?

    • regardless of the reasons, its a real shame to see them go. Their veggie sampler was amazing and the staff was super friendly

  • I guess my previous comment with the link was denied… Google “Gladys Nunez” and one of the top results is a post on the adams morgan yahoo group about how she has scammed other businesses. would be a real shame if that’s what happened here.

  • wow, I remember this used to happen all the time at grocery stores when people bounced checks. The store owner would hang the check on the wall until it was paid.

    The landlord should have protected themselves by requiring a personal guarantee on the lease. That way they can sue the individual for damages of not keeping up with the terms of the lease.

  • Ha. Perhaps those into ‘shaming’ are also those who believe business is always successful with enough effort- and wealthy enough to not need to worry about the other part of the equation, starting capital. Clowns.

    Shaming is what you do to people who have swindled or hurt, not those who haven’t been able to pay rent. Clowns.

    • Most of you have never been landlords, have you. Having been a small landlord, who has struggled to pay his own bills when I have had tenants – for a variety of reasons, good and bad – not pay their rent, I sympathize with both parties – the struggling small business that can not pay its bills, and the landlord who has his own bills to pay and relies upon those who have promised that they will pay him a monthly rent. Posting the check may or may not have been a mistake, but he was harmed first (and probably to a greater degree) by the tenant who did not pay the rent they had promised to pay. The tenant, in turn, was probably hurt by a bad economy, lack of publicity, limited business sense, etc.

    • Not paying rent *is* theft.

      If you take something without paying for it, that is stealing.

      steal   [steel]
      to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force: A pickpocket stole his watch.

  • And as for posting the canceled/returned check, what type of personality think that’s appropriate? Someone who feels they need to explain themselves to/defend themselves from the public? Rather odd on its own, and highly unprofessional and sketchy when you take into account the financial info on show that has been mentioned several times already.

    I enjoyed the food there, but I’m not going to assume that non-payment of rent is *the* issue, or the only issue. We’ll never know…

  • If that’s your reflection in the window you have very nice legs PoP.

  • A shame. I took my dear mother there for Mother’s day. The Doro wot was splendid, the tibs were a little tough and it took forever for the food to come out, and we were only customers there. Regardless I enjoyed it. As for her checking account # being put on display, its tactless but seriously.. Its not as if she has any money in it regardless right?

  • Lots of assumptions being made here – do we know for a fact that Mama Tegaste didn’t make good on the bounced check?

    Who has never run close to a zero balance – waiting to be paid while having to pay bills.

    Sure, I’ve written a check to pay a bill hoping that the paycheck I just deposited would clear before the other check was cashed. Fortunately it’s been 30 years since I was in that situation….

    • Of course we don’t know whether or not she made good on her bounced check. We don’t know anything. That’s why I find it so disgusting that people are jumping to conclusions about her being a deadbeat tenant owing thousands of dollars and causing tremendous stress to the landlord. As an earlier poster said, there is a yahoo page warning about this Gladys Nunez being a scam artist and ripping off businesses and tenants. You’re absolutely right, Cheque — people are making too many assumptions here, and the only thing we know for sure is that a sweet old lady trying to make a positive contribution to Columbia Heights has been shut down and now her reputation is being smeared solely on the basis of conjecture. It is absolutely despicable.

  • wrong information ms, nunez posted bounce cheak ,rent that space over 5,000 + all utilites& property tax how old bounce cheak 1,250,00 for rent ?bounce cheak 10/6/10 before resturant open?ms nunez bad bad women ,glads nunez people watch u, first pay GOV tax bill u pay price soon,

  • NO! I drove past last night and was devastated! Just this weekend I was gathering friends to go for dinner tonight.

    It’s a shame that it seems to have been a money issue. I don’t envy anyone who is a landlord, but even if she wasn’t getting her rent every month, she’s not making any money on the place now.

    Maybe Mama Tegeste can find a place somewhere in Petworth…

  • Well, as for other side of the story it is quite sad.

    The landlord lady sounds like a nightmare and seems to have made Mama Tegeste’s life very difficult for the past 6 months at least. Until it got to be so much that she had to pick up and leave in a day.

    If anything, I think this is Glady’s Nunez way of ripping money out of her tenants. And posting the check is a cheap tactic as it is inappropriately tainting Tegeste’s good name.

    It pains me to see her name being questioned based on one side of the story. Especially since Mama Tegeste is not only an extremely nice and welcoming person, but very generous as well – quite often she would surprise me and my boyfriend with free food, wine or coffee just so that we could try something new.

    I know she is looking for a new location in the area… so I really hope she succeeds. Not only because she will get to clear her name again, but because her food is among the top Ethiopian fares in DC and both her and her meals are dearly missed!

  • God please help Tegeste.

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