It may be the fate of 114 College Ave. in downtown to remain empty. And with Koa Surf Bar and Restaurant, the latest occupant of the building, closing up shop in late November, the curse continues.
Koa Surf Bar and Restaurant, first opened as Koa Bowls in July and didn’t even make it through its first semester in this college town, despite owner Chris Grimalda’s enthusiastic attempts to appeal to his young customer base.
It wasn’t lack of business that pushed the Hawaiian poke bowl restaurant to close. Instead, Grimalda said it was the 118-year-old building’s “structural damages.”
“We are devastated after how much work we put into it and having so many great ties with the community,” Grimalda said. “We are just heartbroken over this.”
A renter’s dilemma
Roof leaks caused water to drip into the food preparation area and caused the building's structural damage, said Keli Hinson, environmental health director for the Northeast Health District, in an email.
Grimalda is renting the space, valued at $646,356, from a landlord, whom he said would not fix these problems. When The Red & Black contacted landlord Jeane Argo, she said she plans to repair the building according to code and address these issues.
Even so, Grimalda said he voluntarily closed down because of the structural problems and contacted the Clarke County Environmental Health Services Office on Dec. 11 to let them know.
An employee of the department confirmed the damages on the same day, and the business has to remain closed until the repairs are made, Hinson said.
John Spagna, administrator for the code enforcement division in the Athens-Clarke County Building Permits and Inspection Department, also noted “there is deterioration and some failure of the brick mortar joints,” and the owners are fixing the issues.
Once the repairs are made, the inspection office will look for compliance with the International Property Maintenance Code, which outlines what is deemed unsafe for buildings.
Prior to the Dec. 11 visit, the health department made its regular inspection of Koa in September 2018, when the restaurant was about 2 months old at the time. Koa received an 82, according to the inspection document, but none of the docked points were for problems with the building.
Because the closing of his new business happened so suddenly, Grimalda is unsure where he will go from here.