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Omnivore - Stone Soup to close on Aug. 23, blames landlord increasing rent

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Popular Grant Park eatery Stone Soup Kitchen (584 Woodward Ave. S.E., 404-524-1222. www.stonesoupkitchen.net) is shutting its doors after 11 successful years. And it’s laying the blame on its new landlord, a real-estate developer with big plans for Memorial Drive. 

According to a press release, owner Sarah Rick received an eviction notice from Paces Properties on June 30 saying that the restaurant had 60 days to cease operations and vacate the premises. Stone Soup’s final day of service will be Tues., Aug. 23. Rick says that’s exactly 38 years to the day that the Emory University graduate opened a natural grocery store in Virginia-Highland, also named Stone Soup, that was the forerunner to the popular Grant Park cafe. 

“It was a little bit like getting divorce papers in the mail when you didn’t even see a divorce coming,” Rick, who opened the restaurant in 2005, says in the release. 

Of all the developers making bets on Memorial Drive in recent years, Paces has been the most active in its acquiring land along the once-industrial corridor that’s poised to become a strip of retail, residences, and restaurants. The company says it is investing more than $200 million in multiple properties — including Atlanta Dairies, a mixed-use project — along the once-industrial strip between Oakland Cemetery and the Atlanta Beltline.     

Since purchasing the Woodward Avenue building in January, Rick says, Paces had apparently been seeking to increase rent “enough to make it completely unaffordable.” The owner says the restaurant would have had to rework its concept to make the new payment. 

“As a tenant here, things have been iffy for about two years,” Rick says. “It’s a sad way to go out. Our 17 employees have taken the news well. I’m glad they at least have a little time to explore new opportunities.”

The press release says that, in preparation for her forthcoming retirement, Rick has spent the last two years seeking prospective buyers. She recently had a formal deal in place with another restaurant operator that likely would have kept the Stone Soup in its current location and the same name, the press release says. But that deal was contingent upon brokering an affordable lease with Paces.

In a statement, a Paces spokeswoman says Stone Soup “was not under a current lease” when the company bought the building in January. She says tenants’ rents needed to be “logically” increased to fund exterior improvements and building system upgrades. The commercial building that houses Stone Soup is one of several properties that Paces plans to spend $20 million redeveloping.

The company made numerous attempts to agree to a long term lease with the restaurant, the spokeswoman says, but “negotiations broke down especially when Stone Soup Kitchen revealed their intention to sell their business by year end,” the spokeswoman says. “Paces was disappointed that an agreement could not be reached to continue to maintain the existing Stone Soup Kitchen operation, as the tenancy of Stone Soup Kitchen was one of the deciding factors for the acquisition.” 

Rick says the restaurant will “continue to do everything we can to secure a future for Stone Soup Kitchen.” 

ead the full press release:

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