Lease agreement cause for shutdown, owner says
One of Oxford’s most popular Uptown establishments, 45 East Bar & Grill, closed its doors this week.
Owner Will Weisman sent an email to the 45 East employees explaining that, despite both he and his brother Mark’s best efforts, they were unable to negotiate terms with the property owner to extend their lease on the building.
The property also includes the second story bar Decibel and its dance floor space.
“We were simply unable to finalize a lease extension and decided to look for other locations,” Weisman said. “The relationship with the building owner is perfectly fine. Millions of businesses chose to not renew leases and ultimately relocate.”
The property is owned by 43 East High St. LLC.
Weisman said he is looking for new locations for the business. He and his brother own other establishments in Oxford including Brick Street and Will’s Pizza.
However, Oxford’s economic development director, Alan Kyger, said he has yet to be contacted by the owners to find a new location for 45 East.
“Most people looking for building space contact me because I have a list of available sites in Oxford,” Kyger said.
Kyger explained the lease between the property owner and leaseholder is private, and the city of Oxford has no way of knowing why the lease couldn’t be renewed, or how many times it has been renewed.
“Yes, it did close abruptly, but you see that a lot,” Kyger said. “It is very difficult and stressful for all parties involved. You just can’t make everyone happy all the time.”
As for the fate of the corner lot, Kyger said it is up to the property owner. They could choose to fill it with a new establishment or tear it down to build something entirely new.
45 East’s employees were taken by surprise when they received the email from Weisman about the closing. Employees received notice on June 19 and were instructed to pick up their final paychecks at Brick Street on Thursday, June 22.
One employee, Gina Stigall, had been employed by 45 East for over 25 years. Her daughter, Virginia, started a GoFundMe page to help her mother pay her rent and other bills while Gina looks for new work in the area.
“We never received a formal notice that the restaurant would be closing,” Gina said in the description of her GoFundMe page. “I’ve worked hard for the reputation that I have within the Oxford community at being the best at what I do.”
She claims that the employees were unaware of the situation until Weisman delivered the news via email.
“I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears to this job and to be treated this way is the most humiliating feeling I’ve ever felt in a long time,” Gina continued in her GoFundMe message.
The page surpassed its initial goal of $2,700 in its first two days of being online and has since surpassed $7,000.
Facebook groups such as ‘Oxford Talk,’ and ‘Oxford Speak Your Mind’ are two public groups where students as well as Oxford citizens have voiced their opinions.
The Weisman brothers reached out to Gina many times but have been unable to make contact, Will said in a Facebook post. They encourage the public to reach out to her through Will’s post in the ‘Oxford Talk’ Facebook group.
“Despite our efforts, it now appears that Gina is receiving very generous donations through a GoFundMe page,” Weisman said through his post in the ‘Oxford Talk’ Facebook group. “She is certainly deserving. We appreciate the incredible generosity displayed to her during this tough time.”
Students like senior Kayla Dixon are sad to see the business go.
“My freshman and sophomore year would not have been the same if 45 wasn’t on that corner, right across from Brick,” Dixon said. “Thursday nights just truly won’t be the same now and I’m sad that the incoming freshman won’t get to experience that the way I did.”
Dixon said even though the Weismans plan to relocate, the move will change the experience students enjoyed at 45.
“We all go to school at Miami and spend just as much time Uptown as we do on campus, so we know the area,” Dixon said. “We know that corner spot with the amazing patio, and how it will absolutely not be the same if it were to move elsewhere, just like La Piñata is not the same as El Burrito Loco.”
45 East was probably best known among students for its Thursday night attraction most called “Pitchers” when the bar offered pitchers of mixed drinks called “Mind Probes” for $6.
“I am very upset about the closing of 45,” said senior Caroline Hellman. “I was so excited because I am turning 21 in August, and ‘Pitchers’ was always my favorite night of the week.”