'Why did Illegal Food close? Quite simply put it was not a financially viable operation.'
Illegal Food Monday unexpectedly shuttered its Virginia-Highland doors after only two-and-a-half years in business.
Disappointment and confusion from fans of the restaurant's burgers and okonomiyaki fries poured in across social media.
While a reason for the closure was immediately disclosed, one of the restaurant's employees Steven Lingenfelter, who on his personal Facebook page is listed as the establishment's owner, claimed high rents were a contributing factor.
Didier Stahl and Kevin Cronin Thursday emailed What Now Atlanta to set the record straight.
"We are the owners of Illegal Food," Stahl and Cronin said. "Steven [Lingenfelter] and Laurie were employees of ours and were not owners in any way, shape or form."
According to Stahl and Cronin, Illegal Food's landlord Elissa Pichulik had nothing to do with the closure. Instead, "quite simply put it was not a financially viable operation."
Here's the rest of their statement:
- The Pichuliks were one of the main reasons for Illegal Food having a space to begin with. Without them we would have never resurfaced after our exit from Joystick. They were real champions of our concept and even turned down offers from other very reputable and successful Atlanta restauranteurs to give us newcomers our shot.
- The Pichuliks NEVER tripled the rent on us, in fact when the rent increased (it definitely didn't triple), as agreed and stated in the lease agreement, and we could not afford it the Pichuliks worked with us to continue operating while paying FAR LESS than the stated rent, (even less than the first year) They even got personally involved to understand if there was anything else they could offer to help us create a profitable business. They were 100% committed to us succeeding. They are really amazing landlords and any business would be lucky to have them as their partner. They have in fact taken a significant financial loss on Illegal Food and are still very supportive of me and my partner as we try to wind down the Illegal Food operation.
- Why did Illegal Food close? Quite simply put it was not a financially viable operation. In the 2+ years it operated it never made money or broke even. In fact even the joystick days were money losers. It was simply a money loser from day 1. My partner, myself and the Pichuliks have amassed combined debts of close to 200K+. We simply had no choice but to close the doors.
- Was it a shock to Laurie and Steven? It shouldn't have been. We had been talking about shutting it down for over a year.
No word on what will open in Illegal Food's place.