Uncle Willie’s Barbecue seeks damages from Marriott Corporation |
By Tanya Dennis
In 2018, Marriott Residence Inn and Hotel, which is building a project of 18 floors and 286 rooms at the 14e and Jefferson, approached Uncle Willie’s Barbecue restaurant to purchase their establishment. After refusing to sell, Uncle Willie’s co-owner Craig Jones was suspicious of Marriott’s intentions when approached over “air rights” and tie-backs that would encroach on their property for just $ 5,000.
Thomas’ answer was “no,” but Marriott continued construction, encroaching not only on air rights but also on land rights after installing a narrow netting fence.
As large cranes dominated their cooking yard, Marriott did nothing more to dampen dust or prevent dangerous objects from falling on Thomas’ property.
They could not cook or provide meals in the open air. It was too dangerous, because of the fumes from the trucks, the dust and the noise. A tenant moved from his apartment above the restaurant and the apartment remained vacant for two years. Marriott ignored the fact that erecting an 18-story building would create a wind tunnel making Thomas’s premises always cold.
The Thomas family contacted Marriott about the impact of this construction on their business, to no avail.
Beverly Thomas says: “We complained to the City, but the City said there was nothing they could do and that we had to hire a lawyer, which so far has been ineffective, leaving us unable to. build on our 15-year success. Business.”
Edward Lai, lawyer for the Thomas family, said he had never seen tactics like Marriott’s. “I’ve seen a lot of commercial construction in my career, but I’ve never seen practices like this. I saw this type of construction in San Francisco and I saw the care. I have never seen a business close for fear of debris falling on people’s heads.
“There are practices here that could be cleaner and different to keep my client running, but that’s not happening,” Lai said. “A cutter with the blade extended and a 10 to 15 pound piece of metal fell in my client’s garden. It could have been fatal.
Uncle Willie’s, which closed for 18 months, is seeking compensation for mental anguish, loss of tenants and two years of inability to operate his business. The Thomas family estimate their losses at several million dollars.
In response, Marriott is offering $ 58.00 to rent their backyard for the next two or three months, but if they are accepted, the Thomases cannot sue Marriott for past damage.
Marriott, on the other hand, says it is acting in good faith.
“We work to be good neighbors,” Marriott attorney Josh Byrd said. “We have come up with solutions and security measures, but we haven’t heard from them yet. We want to engage with them and help them, but it’s a work in progress. We are doing our best. An offer is pending but has not been accepted.
Unable to operate his business, Uncle Willie’s contracted with Central Kitchen and Deeply Rooted to provide meals to the homeless, the elderly and students of the Oakland Unified School District, creating sufficient income to pay for the ‘mortgage and keep the lights on.
“They think it’s okay to break us out without any recourse,” Jones said. “… They have the silhouette of an African American on their building, but they point the finger at an African American business, regardless of how we have been negatively impacted. “
Jerome Taylor, Uncle Willie’s employee and family member said, “When Marriott showed us their plans, we indicated that they were encroaching on our property, which they denied, but they are. Scaffolding and cranes rise 180 feet above our property. The neighboring property abandoned their business and when Marriott demolished the building they damaged our building, did a cosmetic repair with plaster, ignoring the cracks. The thick dust and dirt in our backyard forced us to shut down a million dollar business because the health department said we could no longer cook in the backyard.
“We’re known for our barbecue in the community,” Taylor said. “Marriott shut us up. We were damaged.