Only a few months ago, Kore Kombucha owner Curtis Shimmen planned to open a kombucha taphouse in the Whiteaker neighborhood, serving a variety of fermented drinks and foods, including kefir and kimchi.
Now, everything has changed.
“I put my blood, sweat and tears into that place, and all my money,” Shimmen says. “I’m looking for another spot, but it’s going to be difficult.”
Shimmen of the Kore Kombucha Taphouse and Ben Maude of the Hard Times Distillery Tasting Room are both in need of alternate buildings after city code violations and landlord troubles made it impossible for them to carry on at their previous side-by-side locations in the Whiteaker neighborhood.
According to city records filed in April, 543/547 Blair Blvd. has operated as a retail space without a change of use permit since 2005, making it in violation of city code. The property was previously an auto repair shop and has served as an art gallery, performance space and other businesses in the past 10 years.
Shimmen says that, in April, the city contacted him about a separate code violation, informing him that his storefront at 543 Blair Blvd., which he was leasing from landlord Glen Fogelstrom, was not code compliant. Further investigation found that the site needed two bathrooms in order to comply with city code and qualify for his required licensing.
Shimmen says that according to estimates from potential contractors, adding two bathrooms would cost around $27,000. Though he did not have the money upfront to install the bathrooms, he says he planned to work with Fogelstrom to make the necessary modifications.
However, according to Shimmen, Fogelstrom evicted Shimmen via voicemail on April 15 and allegedly broke their two-year lease agreement.
EW spoke with Fogelstrom, but he requested he not be involved in the story.
Maude says that Fogelstrom, who also owns the property Maude was leasing at 547 Blair Blvd., next removed portable bathrooms that made the Hard Times tasting room temporarily legal. Maude says the city gave him 280 days to raise funds to install permanent bathrooms.
After Fogelstrom refused to put the temporary bathrooms back due to expense, Maude says, Fogelstrom asked Maude to leave.
Maude says that, prior to the evictions, he and Shimmen were working to launch a fundraiser on Kickstarter and use funds from an upcoming distillery fest at the Hult Center to help offset the cost of the necessary modifications, which included building the two bathrooms and a small kitchen, leasing parking spaces and making other required changes.
In the city’s records, Fogelstrom says that as of April 23, he didn’t know what “change-of-use” was or what it entailed. As of May 5, records show he was working with the city of Eugene to bring the buildings up to code.
According to an April 20 letter of notice to Fogelstrom from the city, Fogelstrom would have needed to submit a change-of-use permit application by May 4 if the properties had remained leased. Now that the properties are vacant, the letter says, Fogelstrom cannot legally rent them out again until they are code compliant.
Maude says he wants people to know that Hard Times Distillery itself is not closed, and the distillery in Monroe remains up and running. “Hard Times Distillery has always worked to live up to its name,” Maude says. “It’s kind of heartbreaking to lose Blair — it was a great space and we loved the Whiteaker — but we will find a new space, or we’ll find a new niche that works for us.”
Shimmen says he is still interested in opening his kombucha taphouse elsewhere, but since he invested most of his funds into the property in the Whiteaker, he’s not sure how he’ll accomplish it and may consider fundraising. His Kore Kombucha products are still available for purchase. He says he plans to pursue legal action against Fogelstrom.