Coronavirus

As Fulton Moves To Delay In-Person Eviction Hearings, Some Businesses Are Already Closing Down

A "For Lease" sign is posted on the facade of a vacant cafe.
A "For Lease" sign is posted on the facade of a vacant cafe.
Credit Charles Krupa / Associated Press

Fulton County’s move to postpone all in-person eviction cases until at least November has come too late for some business owners.

On March 14, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia Harold Melton declared a statewide judicial emergency. That order has been extended four times, with revisions. Meanwhile, landlords have filed for evictions during the coronavirus pandemic. Since March, the court has received more than 2,600 new cases.

Catina Stavroulakis has been the face of the Virginia Highland corner store, Art Bath Soul, for more than a decade. It’s nestled on North Highland Avenue near Genki Noodles and Sushi, Fontaine’s Oyster House and Highland Tap.

Stavroulakis said that she and several other small business owners, part of a once-thriving block, have already left at the end of their leases because they were unable to negotiate with landlords under the Meddin Company. Driving through the area, one can see many dark and shuttered windows that were once neighborhood staples.

While Fulton County officials said the court will offer virtual hearings for landlords and tenants, both must agree to attend the virtual hearing. If either party declines, the case will stall until November. Landlords can’t evict tenants without a judge’s approval.

Stavroulakis said she was in the eleventh hour of negotiations with her landlord over a new lease that was contingent on her paying months of missed rent that added up to more than $10,000.

She told “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam that those rent talks came to an abrupt halt and she turned over the keys.

Landlord Stuart Meddin said that a payment plan was in place that included a new lease, but Stavroulakis nixed the agreement, saying she should not have to pay in full.

Meddin says they are both in business, and The Meddin Company has worked out reasonable payment arrangements with other tenants in the area.

Stavroulakis called Meddin “unreasonable.”

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.

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