Kings Beach coffee shop protests eviction
Sierra Grind is definitely a local joint. The small Kings Beach coffee shop has a Cheers-like vibe, a place where coffee drinkers, pizza eaters and ice cream aficionados address each other by first name. Don likes the cinnamon rolls and French roast coffee with milk and raw sugar. Van takes his coffee black. Sierra Grind owner Chris Trimm serves smoothies, lattes and breakfast burritos to people he’s gotten to know after more than 20 years in Tahoe.
But soon, he may not be serving at all. He and his wife, shop co-owner Adriene Trimm, received an eviction notice under their door in early September. They are not ready to leave.
“You can’t find a better location, right next to 7-Eleven and across from the beach,” said Chris, who also owns a small moving business. “This is a big chunk of our income.”
The couple, who have two children ages 8 and 5, feel duped because they have 30 days to vacate a building they had no intention of leaving. They feel at home in the small space, and with wooden bars, closely placed tables and colorful hand-written menus, it is certainly cozy. But the Trimms have never signed a lease.
Chris, who opened Sierra Grind a year and a half ago, said he waited several months for a contract with the prior owners he bought out to go through, and then when he was ready to sign a lease, landlord Steven Griggs put it off. Griggs, who owns a number of Kings Beach properties, as well as realty and mortgage companies, said the couple refused to sign a lease. “The tenants are on a month-to-month occupancy, even though we tried to have them sign a lease six months ago,” he stated in a faxed statement.
Local attorney Jim Porter said month-to-month leases are common in the area, and if a tenant and landlord do not sign a lease or merely have a verbal agreement, they enter by default into a month-by-month lease that requires landlords provide 30-day notice in the case of eviction. But the Trimms are consulting a lawyer, and regardless of California law, they are shocked.
“We had a big dream that we would expand next door and add sandwiches and more tables,” said Chris. “Then we found out not only are we not getting the space next door, we’re getting kicked out.”
Chris and Adriene have lived in Kings Beach since 1991 and said that since they took over what used to be a less eclectic coffee and gift shop, business from locals has doubled. Chris attributes that to their backgrounds in restaurant management, and the fact that they “know all about taking care of people.” Indeed, their customers clearly show affection for the place and the people who run it.
“They’re friendly, chatty and they have good coffee and good food,” said Van Marshall, a bearded woodcutter from Crystal Bay.
“Oh man, I hate Seven Eleven coffee,” grumbled one customer clutching a cup, when faced with the prospect of Sierra Grind’s closing.
The Trimms know how to take care of folks. But what they and countless other Kings Beach residents may not have known when they began renting was the benefit of signing a long-term lease and conducting documented walkthroughs before entering into an agreement.
Others who previously rented from Griggs said the landlord held their deposits for damage done before they moved in. They tell of terrible conditions upon arrival, like mold sprouting under bathroom carpets and gaping holes in floors and ceilings. Griggs could not be reached for comment on those charges.
Porter, the local attorney, said people should be sure to do thorough walkthroughs and take photos of any damage before renting. Landlords are required by law to provide “habitable premises,” he said.
Without a long-term lease, there is nothing preventing landlords from giving tenants 30-days to get out and doing what they like with their buildings. And that is precisely what Griggs intends to do.
“We have plans to open our own business in our own building,” Griggs reported in the faxed statement. He apparently has plans to move North Shore Realty, now housed above Tony’s CafZ, into the Sierra Grind space. The realty office will also encompass what is now Sagan Rich Contractors. An employee at Sagan Rich would say only, “We are not getting evicted, and we aren’t running from anybody.”
Griggs distinguishes between “eviction” and “moving people out according to their rental agreement.” But no matter which dictionary one uses, Sierra Grind customers will no longer be able to get their favorite coffee at the current location, and the Trimms will have to find a new place of business. Don, Van and all the other patrons will have to fill up on take n’ bake pizza, smoothies, shakes, and fresh brewed coffee at Sierra Grind before Oct. 4.
“I don’t know what we’re doing D it’s getting down to the wire and it’s making me nervous,” said Adriene, adding they will definitely reopen somewhere else. The space they’re looking at now has a five-year lease.
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