LAKEVIEW — It's not just the residents of the troubled Chateau Hotel who lack answers from the building's new owners.
Business owners in the building are in the dark, too, and long-term tenants wanting to plan for the future are frustrated. None of the five business tenants at Chateau have heard whether they'll be able to stay in light of all the changes.
"I want to stay in this location," said Victoria Smith, owner of Charbella Hair and Barber at 3832 N. Broadway, a salon that's been around for 15 years. "I've built up a clientele. But they're not giving me any information."
Just like the single resident occupancy rooms above it, Smith's salon has long suffered from problems such as flooding and ceiling damage that went ignored by former owner Jack Gore, she said. But things haven't changed much since the new, mysterious owner took over — despite a 10 percent jump in her rent, she said.
Last month, she lost business for about a week when her hot water was abruptly cut off. Last weekend, Smith and her staff arrived to find part of the ceiling had collapsed onto two hair stations after a water leak. She expects the damage to cost her $15,000.
Smith said she approached new building management about the problems three weeks ago, and although she was told a plumber would come fix the flooding, nobody showed up.
She's now talking to lawyers about how to remedy the situation. Smith is looking at other spaces in the neighborhood as a plan B, but even if she moves, she said she wants the Chateau's owners to pay for all the lost business and damage.
"It's very, very frustrating," she said. "I'm just a little black woman and they're trying to manipulate me. It's not fair."
Employees at Chateau Hotel declined to comment, and said the building manager is in Jamaica for a month.
The identities of Chateau Hotel's new owners, 3838 North Broadway LLC, according to Ald. James Cappleman (46th), have remained hidden and do not yet appear in public records. The building has been a sore point between the alderman and housing activists, who have been protesting the loss of affordable housing in the neighborhood.
The building is set to undergo a major renovation, with kitchens being added to the rooms and rent going up to $800-$900 per room.
Employees at Nearly New Bikes, Hanshaw Custom Tailoring and Ismat Fashion also had not heard about what would happen during while the building is gutted and renovated. An employee at Jimmy's Nails said she heard they could stay during renovation, but knew nothing else.
Five of the seven storefronts from 3820-3836 N. Broadway are filled.
Cappleman's office, which has been a primary purveyor of information about the Chateau, did not return a call or email for comment.
"They don't have a good dialogue with us at all," said a woman who works at Ismat Fashion and who did not wish to be named. "They're tricky."
The African fashion store has been around for more than 30 years, she said, and to move out isn't easy. But the Nigerian immigrant plans to stay there, she said with a sigh.
"What can you do?" she said.