The owner of a popular Lincolnia-area restaurant says he is being forced to move after a new landlord has inexplicably denied an extension on his lease.
Duke House of Kabob and Market, 6301 Little River Turnpike, has been in business for 20 years. It’s a staple in the neighborhood where it is located and serves customers throughout the region. Now its owner says he is being forced to close against his wishes.
Fairfax County property tax records show that the building property where Duke’s is located was foreclosed upon and then was purchased by a new owner earlier this year.
The new owners purchased the building in March, just two months prior to the end of the restaurant’s lease in May, according to owner Khosrou Nazemzadeh, 60.
Nazemzadeh said he welcomed his new landlord, C-III Capital Partners, LLC., and attempted to engage in a good faith negotiation with their leasing agent, Paragon Commercial Property Management, Inc., but he said that at some point Paragon simply stopped communicating, and that a new deal was never reached prior to the restaurant’s lease expiring. Now, Nazemzadeh says he has been given a termination order and asked to vacate the space his restaurant has occupied in the building since 1993.
“I had a great relationship with my previous landlord,” Nazemzadeh said. “I was never late paying my rent and never had any compliance issues. I can’t understand why this is happening. After my lease expired in May, I was paying month to month and no long-term lease renewal was ever discussed. Now I am supposed to just leave with no explanation? I have spent 20 years building this business. It would take me seven to eight months to find a new location, move everything, and then start all over again from scratch. I am 60 years old. I don’t know if I could do that.”
Phone messages left for representatives at both Paragon and C-III were not returned.
Many local patrons are upset at the prospect of the restaurant closing and nearly 2,000 people have signed an online Change.org petition asking the restaurant’s new landlords to reconsider.
“This is one of my favorite places to eat for lunch and dinner. I have been a loyal customer for over nine years and would hate to see them go,” said Michael Sever of Alexandria.
Arnold Nicogossian of Fairfax says he has been eating at Duke’s since it opened 20 years ago. “I am of Iranian descent and I can tell you that it is one of the best Middle Eastern restaurants around,” he said. “It is authentic, and reasonably priced. I would really miss it if it were to close.”
Nazemzadeh and his wife, originally from Iran, moved to America in 1986 with the hope of making a better life and raising children here. “I came here with less than $350 to my name,” he said. Nazemzadeh said he began working at a local Arby’s roast beef restaurant mopping floors and eventually became general manager in charge of five locations.
In 1993 he opened Duke’s and realized his dream of opening his own business. “It is what I always wanted to do,” he said.
The restaurant flourished and the Nazemzadehs comfortably raised two children, both now physicians, from the store’s proceeds. “My father’s restaurant and his hard work put both me and my brother through medical school,” said his daughter, Dr. Maryam Nazemzadeh. “That store allowed me to live the life I have now.”
Her brother, Dr. Milad Nazemzadeh, also has fond memories of working with his dad in the restaurant.
“I worked alongside my father at the restaurant when I was in high school. The close bond that I developed with my father during that time was the best part of the entire experience,” he said. “The restaurant has been a part of my family for as long as I can remember, and it’s extremely unfortunate and upsetting that we could possibly lose it under such circumstances.”
Khosrou Nazemzadeh said he and Duke’s have survived many obstacles in the past and that he will continue fighting to survive this one. “I have contacted an attorney,” he said. “I am not a quitter. I almost had to close the restaurant during the recession in 2008 and 2009 because things were so bad, but my children were in college and I could not quit on them, so I managed to stay open. Now they are fighting for me. This is a family restaurant. We will fight for the survival of our family. We fought to survive then, and we will fight to survive now. ”