Bethany Clough

This downtown Fresno restaurant is closing. Here’s how rent and homelessness play a role

Renoir Corner is fast becoming restaurant corner in downtown Fresno

With the upcoming arrival of La Boulangerie de France, the corner of Fulton and Mariposa streets has seen a jump in restaurants opening since Fulton Street was opened up to traffic last year.
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With the upcoming arrival of La Boulangerie de France, the corner of Fulton and Mariposa streets has seen a jump in restaurants opening since Fulton Street was opened up to traffic last year.

Downtown restaurant Just the Tip is closing.

Rising rent and frustration with panhandlers are part of the reason cited by the owners that the restaurant, which specializes in smoked meats like tri-tip, is closing. The owners posted a goodbye message on Facebook. The restaurant’s last day is Friday, Aug. 30.

Just the Tip will continue to do catering and pop-up events.

The restaurant is at 2017 Mariposa Mall, near the corner of Fulton Street, a location that has been celebrated for its revitalization in recent years. It’s in the same building and just a few doors down from Chicken Shack.

The landlord remodeled the former Payless Shoesource into what is now Chicken Shack and Toshiko Japanese Cuisine. The outside of the building was renovated, too, with iconic art installed on its exterior.

Just the Tip is not in the part that was renovated, but faces Mariposa and the Pacific Southwest Building. It’s been there about two years, moving from another downtown location.

The main reason the restaurant is closing is rising rent, said Maria Metzger, who co-owns the business.

The restaurant’s lease is expiring and the rent would rise from $1,700 a month to $2,200 a month, she said.

She anticipates another rent increase the year after, and said she is unhappy with the state of the restaurant’s air conditioning system. When it’s 100 degrees out, it’s between 85 and 90 inside, she said.

The owners looked for another spot with hopes of relocating, but said they didn’t find one – in downtown or elsewhere. She said she probably wouldn’t reopen in downtown, in any case.

Homelessness

Metzger said she’s unhappy with the homeless situation on that corner.

“When I can’t have a customer walk in the door without being asked for money or being asked for food, it’s very discouraging,” she said.

She said she and her business partner have been to meetings about the homeless situation, but don’t feel the city is doing enough about it.

*There’s too many things people don’t want to fix,” she said. “They turn a blind eye to it.”

The owners have faced other challenges at the spot: An expensive smoker was stolen, the building has been broken into, two of their cars have been broken into, and people jump over a locked fence to get to their trash bin, she said.

Optimism about downtown

Landlord Robert Gurfield is optimistic about downtown, but acknowledged that homelessness is a challenge.

“My observation is that the amount of homeless in the area, panhandling in the area, comes and goes. I think it’s certainly a problem for downtown,” he said. “I’d like to see the homeless situation improve. That would be a great benefit for Fresno.”

Despite that, he’s positive about the future of the area.

“I’m really bullish on downtown, and we’re going to do some more revitalization on that corner,” Gurfield said.

That space and others will be fixed up, he said. Typically, once a new renter commits, he’s then able to get money to upgrade the space, he said.

“We’re getting inquiries and demands for the space,” he said. “We have several leads already for tenants that want to go into that space.”

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Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.
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