A local business owner claims he's being evicted because he flew a "Blue Lives Matter" or "Back the Blue" flag on the building to show support for law enforcement officers.
Albert Soto, owner of The Drip coffee shop, took to social media to accuse his landlord, Mindy Hendrix, of tossing out a "successful business."
"So this flag, which was purchased at the memorial to honor [Tulsa Police] Sgt. Craig Johnson and which shows support for our police officers, has caused our left-wing landlord to evict a successful business that's been around since 2012," Soto wrote in the Facebook post.
Many of Soto's followers were quick to seek clarification from Soto that the lease wasn't being renewed specifically because of the flag.
"Our lease is up at the end of the month and originally, [Hendrix] wanted to buy Drip and then it became, 'We need to move,'" Soto said. "But we can have until the end of the year to find a place to move into, but now we are told, 'Nope, you are gone by September.'"
Soto said his staff took down the flag to appease Hendrix, but that he was told to vacate the building, anyway.
However, Hendrix said Soto isn't even being evicted, and the flag had nothing to do with the "lack of a lease renewal."
"Using this excuse allows Al to play the victim, which he commonly likes to do, in my opinion," Hendrix said. "I do believe that Al had bad timing regarding the flag, given that he hung it on the day the Black Lives Matter demonstrations began in Norris Park, a few feet from his business. It really has nothing to do with my personal views and more to do with his lack of common sense or his ulterior motives."
Brief periods of kneeling occur daily at Norris Park, at noon. Sometimes there are several participants, but at other times, only retired NSU Professor John Yeutter is present.
Soto claimed he and Hendrix had an agreement that he could occupy the building until 2021.
"I asked her in text, 'Hey, do I need to start looking for place?' I'm going to need at least three months' notice to move such a big business," Soto said. "There are some possibilities in town, new construction, the Teague building, but I need time. She agreed to let me stay until the end of the year."
Soto alleged that Hendrix couldn't "shake off the anger" from the flag incident and demanded access to the building late at night. Soto said he asked Hendrix not to speak with his employees about the possibility of future employment with her, or discussing his lease. Soto believes that prompted Hendrix to tell him to leave.
"She obviously got upset being told, 'No, I don't want to give you the code to my alarm,' and the next thing I know, I'm being told I got to leave in 30 days," Soto said.
Soto said he pleaded with Hendrix and explained The Drip has 10 employees, and this is the worst time to shut him down, in the middle of a pandemic. But Hendrix said there are other issues involved.
"Al violated his lease agreement multiple times since I purchased the building in October," Hendrix said. "This is one of many reasons the lease will not be renewed. There was never an agreed-upon extension, nor was anything drawn up or signed. I take the job loss of The Drip's employees very seriously, but I am not responsible for the actions of their employer."
Soto said Hendrix expressed interest in buying The Drip and he told her to contact his CPA. He said Hendrix then suggested she might open her own coffee shop and buy his equipment. The coffee shop is in the building where the popular Iguana Cafée used to be.
"I have texts that confirm she was intending to buy my business, and the texts said she would let us stay there until the end of the year," Soto said. "I took her word."
Soto said he is working with a local attorney and plans to take the matter to court. Even though Hendrix never signed an amended legal agreement stating Soto could occupy the building until 2021, Soto said his attorney believes Hendrix's text messages will hold up in court.
An individual contacted the Daily Press after the brouhaha erupted on Facebook, and said Hendrix is reopening the Iguana. Many locals have expressed the desire, off and on, for the restaurant to be resurrected. Hendrix won't specify for now whether the cafe is reopening, but she said her plans will be revealed in time.
"Good things are to come. It will involve creating something beautiful that brings people together, surrounded by the sacred things in life, which include art, music, love, laughter, and community," Hendrix said.
Soto said he's already been talking to local real estate agents and landlords about his options.
"I'm a responsible business owner and there's a reason The Drip is successful and it's grown year after year," Soto said. "I'm not lazy, and again, if I was told that [Hendrix] was not going to buy my business and she was going to do her own thing, then I would have been looking for a place to move. I want to protect my people."