W&M Foundation: The Crust Cafe operator stopped paying rent

The Crust Cafe closes after failing to pay its rent. Tribe Square is now empty.

The Crust Cafe has closed, just two years after Baltimore natives Paul Marsh and Carl Yungmann opened the business in Tribe Square.

The cafe’s closure leaves the mixed-use building along Richmond Road with no business tenants in the four units available to them. The complex also includes 14 upper-floor apartments available to College of William and Mary students.

“I am deeply disappointed by the departure of the last remaining tenant from Tribe Square,” said Benny Zhang, a Williamsburg City Council member and recent alumnus of the college. “With the eviction of The Crust, the property is now completely vacant. Students have lost several valuable off-campus options in four years.”

College spokesperson Suzanne Seurattan said the restaurant operators stopped paying their rent, which violated the terms of their agreement with the William and Mary Real Estate Foundation.

The foundation owns Tribe Square.

“The lease termination for The Crust was due to a repeated pattern of unpaid rent, thus making the operators of the restaurant in default of their lease,” Seurattan said. “The William & Mary Real Estate Foundation chose to repossess the property only as a last resort after past efforts to work with the operators were unsuccessful.”

The closing of The Crust Cafe comes almost a year after a shooting that occurred on the premises that resulted in criminal charges for seven men. Five men of those men saw their charges dropped.

John Lee Johnson is still in Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail on charges of malicious assault and use of a firearm. Malik Cory Brown’s felony charge of participating in a crime within a juvenile school zone was nolle prossed in March.

Pita Pit, Subway and Mooyah have all occupied Tribe Square since it opened in the fall of 2011. The property is across the street from Blow Memorial Hall.

Though the onus is not on the city to find new tenants, doing so would benefit both city and its college, Zhang said.

“Since I began serving on City Council, I have regularly communicated my concerns to the Foundation to no avail,” he said. “The Foundation showed promise with their past redevelopment plans, but their lack of action is frustrating.”

Zhang, who graduated from the college in 2016, wants to see plans the foundation has to fill its property with what city officials thought could be a group of student-centered businesses.

“The Foundation should consider the impact their actions have on student residents,” he said. “If they have imminent plans for filling these vacant spaces, they should release them as soon as possible.”

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

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