U.S. Marshals evicted Good Stuff Eatery chef and owner Spike Mendelsohn and his friend and business partner, Mike Colletti, from their Capitol Hill rental house this morning after the pair owed more than $8,000 to the landlords, said Joel Truitt, property manager for owners Brian and Elizabeth Wetzler.
When Marshals arrived at 9:30 a.m., they found neither Mendelsohn nor Colletti on the property. Instead, Truitt said, they found another man and woman apparently living there. “We don’t know who they were,” Truitt said. Marshals hauled the home’s possessions to the curb, including futons, a big-screen TV, and a table with eight chairs, the property manager said. The man found living there salvaged his own possessions, Truitt added, but allowed the rest of the stuff to be looted by people in the neighborhood.
News of the eviction comes not long after Mendelsohn started talking publicly about his takeover of Zack’s Taverna, next door to Good Stuff, and his plans to convert the joint to a pizzeria. He’s also been talking about expanding the Good Stuff brand.
In July of last year, Mendelsohn and Colletti signed a one-year lease on the house in 400 block of 15th Street SE, Truitt said. The tenants started off well, paying their rent, but by January of this year, the Wetzlers were forced to turn to the courts when the burger men owed $4,600 in back rent and late fees, Truitt said. Mendelsohn and Colletti were paying $2,200 a month in rent.
Neither showed up for a court hearing on Feb. 25, Truitt said. A writ of restitution eviction notice was then issued on March 11. All along the way, Truitt said, Mendelsohn and Colletti were notified about the ongoing legal proceedings, by both the courts and the landlords. Letters, in fact, were sent to the tenants, the family, and to Good Stuff Eatery, the property manager said. Truitt even called Spike Mendelsohn’s father, Harvey, to try to get some resolution. A couple of checks then arrived in March, Truitt said, totaling about $3,500.
But by May, the tenants owed $8,700 in rent, late fees, and attorneys’ fees, Truitt said. This was money the Wetzlers needed to cover their own mortgage, said Elizabeth Wetzler, who called from Bogotá, Colombia, where she and her husband are stationed. Brian Wetzler is a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, and they’re expecting their first child.
The turn-of-the-century rowhouse on Capitol Hill is the couple’s only rental property. It’s a two-bedroom, two-bath home with new hardwood floors, a remodeled kitchen, and central air. “It’s a cute little house,” Elizabeth Wetzler said.
Wetzler said she and her husband have been more than accommodating with their tenants, repeatedly trying to contact Mendelsohn and Colletti to get them to live up to the terms of the lease. The couple even extended the date of the eviction when the weather proved lousy in late April, she said. They didn’t want to “do the eviction if we were going to put someone out in the rain and snow.”
Micheline Mendelsohn, Spike’s sister and spokeswoman for Good Stuff Eatery, called late this afternoon to explain her brother’s side of the story. She said that Spike had signed a lease in June —- or one month before his lease with the Wetzlers —- to live with his girlfriend at another Capitol Hill location. Micheline Mendelsohn says that her brother transferred his share of the 15th Street lease to another Good Stuff Eatery cook, Brian Lacayo, who lived in the house with Colletti.
It was Lacayo who was on premise when the Marshals arrived this morning, the spokeswoman said. She didn’t know who the unidentified woman was.
Whoever was responsible, Micheline Mendelsohn said she couldn’t explain why the cooks didn’t pay their rent. “The guys’ get a salary,” she said. None of the Good Stuff guys had a comment for the record.
The alleged lease transfer was news to Elizabeth Wetzler when Y&H contacted her a second time. “We never, ever heard of that, and certainly he never asked permission to do so,” the owner said. What’s more, Wetzler added, Spike Mendelsohn’s name was still on all the legal documents coming from the courts.
“Why didn’t he just pick up the phone and say, ‘Please don’t drag my name through this,'” Wetzler said, since he’s claiming to no longer be party to the lease.
Wetzler called back early this evening to say that her husband, Brian, had just spoke with Truitt, their property manager, who had also not heard about the lease transfer. The only people legally responsible for the rent, she added, were Spike Mendelsohn and Mike Colletti.
“We were looking forward to eating some of his hamburgers when we got back to D.C.,” Elizabeth Wetzler said. “But I don’t think we’re going to go to his business now.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery