INWOOD — A popular Inwood cafe is leaving its Dyckman Street location after its owner balked at paying a rent increase and failed to secure a long-term lease.
La Sala 78 Cafe and Art Gallery, which has been serving up lemonade sangria and local art at 111 Dyckman St. for five years, will be moving from its longtime home at the end of the month. Owner Jose Morales informed residents of the cafe's impeding closure on March 14, posting on Instagram that a rent increase had forced him to find a new location.
"Unfortunately our lease will expire at the end of March & we will not be renewing it due to rent increases & short term leases," Morales wrote.
Morales, who has been paying $3,500 per month for the space, was looking to lock in a 10-year lease in the location. But Morales said his landlord, Min Wu of Dyckman 101 LLC, was offering a five-year lease with a rent increase of about $900 per month.
"We were playing a game where every five years there's a $1,000 increase," Morales told DNAinfo.com New York. "It wasn't worth it."
When reached by phone, Wu said that she declined to extend a long-term lease because Morales often failed to pay rent on time. And although she declined to give specific amounts, Wu told DNAinfo.com New York that Morales owed thousands of dollars in back rent.
"I told him: 'Pay me what you owe and we'll talk about the renew,'" Wu said, adding. "If you don't want to pay me, how can I negotiate with you?"
Morales could not immediately be reached Thursday to respond to those allegations.
High commercial rents have affected several small businesses in Washington Heights and Inwood recently. Rent spikes forced out Washington Heights' Word Up Book Shop, and has made it difficult for that store and Inwood's Bread and Yoga to find new locations.
Morales, who also owns Apt. 78 Lounge in Washington Heights bar, announced plans to continue La Sala at Apt. 78, as a pop-up experience featuring the same menu and service running Monday to Saturday beginning April 1.
All of the La Sala's staff will make the transition over as well.
"We already have another space, might as well use it while we're closed," said Morales, who added that the artwork scheduled to be shown at La Sala 78's gallery will rotate with Apt. 78.
Morales said that he expected La Sala 78 to continue in the Washington Heights location for six months to a year.