Beloved Richmond restaurant owner facing eviction

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- A beloved Richmond restaurant owner is facing eviction and the community is rallying to fight back against what the mayor is calling a retaliatory business move.

The iconic restaurant has been here for 14 years and is owned by a woman who is well known in the community and won awards for her philanthropy. Now the community is rallying on her behalf.

She got an eviction notice just three days ago and they want to save the restaurant.

Devoted diners at Salute Ristorante greeted owner Membere Akilu with dismay and, in some cases, tears over the news of her sudden eviction.

"The letter saying that's 30 days' notice to get out, pack and leave," Akilu said.

The letter came from the property owner the Poe family, which owns the Panterra Company. They claim a severe sewage leak at the restaurant is the reason for the eviction.

"We sent someone underneath, we took pictures and when I sent the pictures to Mrs. Poe she called me immediately and she said, 'Oh my gosh, we have to shut this place down. This is terrible,'" Poe family spokesperson Hilton Ham said.

But Akilu says county inspectors gave it a thumbs up.

"The health department came not once but twice in two weeks. They say everything is perfect," Akilu said.

So Richmond residents rallied at the restaurant on Tuesday.

"The reason we are doing this today is to try to find a way to save a Richmond landmark," Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said.

The mayor accuses the Poe family of seeking retaliation against the city for losing an election that blocked them from developing more land here.

By phone, Jackie Poe called that accusation unsophisticated.

"They're not hurting me. They're hurting the whole community," Akilu said.

Akilu is a philanthropist who feeds 1,500 homeless at her waterfront restaurant every Thanksgiving. She was once homeless herself.

"I already feel I win because all this love, all this love," she said.

The last day is set up for September 8.

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