It’s a cold Sunday and Linda Billings is standing in front of her cafe.

She can’t get in.

“We have in our lease that this gate would be replaced, but it’s still broken,” said Billings. “I have to stand here every morning and ask strangers to help me lift it.”

Many people have struggled with a problem landlord and the difficulties in getting repairs. Sometimes even the basic necessities like heat and hot water can’t be taken for granted. But few know that commercial tenants deal with the same challenges. And in our neighborhood, PLOG has heard these complaints often. Anyone who has sat in Lincoln Park Tavern knows that workers were wearing winter coats behind the bar until last week. In the recently opened Blue Roost Petité Cafe, owner Linda Billings has grappled with running a new business and the challenge of dealing with intermittent heat, a leaking ceiling, a broken pull down gate and other problems.

Despite calls to 311 and a personal visit to her management company Besen Retail, many of the issues remain unaddressed.

“This storefront was empty for a long time. We spent months renovating this space. We always pay our rent in full,” said Billings. “Aren’t we the kind of tenant a property owner wants?”

It would seem so to PLOG. Even the management company’s own website praised the efforts of Billings and her partner William Clark. So what gives?


It’s the kind of question that many merchants in the area ask themselves about their relationships with their building owners.

“I’ve asked the owner of my building if he’s trying to push me out,” said one local retailer that did not wish to be identified. “He says no. I think they just try to pressure you into making bad decisions.”

“Get a good lawyer is my advice,” said the retailer.

As for Billings, she still spends mornings hoping for the kindness of strangers.

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