The owner of six-year-old Afro Deli, a popular restaurant on the West Bank, has sued his landlord after a monthslong tussle over lease renewal amid an ownership dispute.
Restaurant owner Abdirahman Kahin, after failing to negotiate a new lease with landlord African Development Center (ADC), wants a Hennepin County District Judge to prevent ADC from claiming any ownership in his restaurant, ban the new executive director of ADC from removing Afro Deli as a tenant and pay more than $50,000 for lost business and claiming ADC is the owner of the business.
"I want peace in the neighborhood," said Kahin, who also operates an Afro Deli in downtown St. Paul. "This is a business I created and I am the legal owner. And I don't like ADC creating a legal cloud over my head.
"Our business is damaged, down about 20 percent, because people think we're closing."
Nasibu Sareva, executive director of ADC, the landlord, said in an e-mail Friday that his organization would respond in court.
Kahin's lawsuit charges that Sareva, who took over at ADC in 2013, has asserted that ADC owns Afro Deli, even though Kahin says legal documents prove he is the incorporate and owner of the business; that ADC ordered Kahin out of the business by June 30 so ADC could take over the profitable restaurant, and further that ADC demanded a doubling of rent and repayment of money that Kahin said he has been repaying through monthly rent and profit-sharing as stipulated in the original five-year lease that has expired.
The relationship between Afro Deli and ADC started to fray after Hussein Samatar, the founder of ADC and a former Wells Fargo banker, died in 2013. Sareva, who was CFO of the organization, succeeded Samatar. And ADC has struggled financially over the last couple of years and laid off employees.
ADC assists African immigrants with financial literacy, business development and finance, and home ownership programs. It relies partly on grants from corporations and foundations.
Samatar, a Somali refugee, recruited Kahin, a Somali-born entrepreneur who closed another restaurant to start Afro Deli in 2010. Afro Deli became the largest tenant in the ADC building, which Samatar and ADC bought and refurbished in 2009-10 on Riverside Avenue near Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota.
Kahin earlier said he paid $2,500 per month rent plus half of profits that totaled $31,877.58 in the first quarter of this year.
The issue has been topical on the West Bank, home to a large East African community.
The restaurant, which features East African and American fare, has been a popular eatery for students and neighbors.