Café Cuba For Sale

Last winter, residents of South Minneapolis lamented the shuttering of Betsy’s Back Porch Coffee. More recently, they have anticipated the opening of Café Cuba in its place, at 5447 Nicollet Ave. But this week, “For Sale” signs appeared in the windows. Heavy Table spoke with the current lessee of the space, John Walker, for an update.

So the Café Cuba space is for sale?

Yes. My partner, my Cuban chef, is trying to buy me out, but he’s having some problems. So I’m open to anything.

Were you always planning to have him buy you out, or was that a new development?

That was a new development.

What are some of the reasons for it?

Some of it has to do with the city. Plus it’s very hard to get any help these days, you know? And we ran into overruns and build-outs financially, and all the permits and everything associated with all of that. It’s been a rough go. This is a hard time to start a business, but the space was available, so we went for it. My chef went down to Miami and figured he could get something going down there, and it’s worse there. So he came back and he wants to get back into it. I’m just a little reluctant to press forward with it at this time. I’m trying to help him through some community development loans or grants so he can buy me out. I just felt that it would be a little easier for everybody. What do they say, “Too many cooks in the kitchen?” Hopefully something will get going here soon and we’ll figure out what we’re going to do. But it’s been rough.

I wish you the best of luck. I hope things turn around.

It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve done in a long time, trying to open up a new business. So we just keep pressing on. It’s a great corner, it’s a wonderful location. The community has been absolutely stellar. We’ve got the community behind us 100 percent, but they can’t help. That’s the only problem, you know? So we’ll just keep going down the different avenues one at a time and see what happens.

Since posting the “For Sale” signs, Walker has received more than 50 calls.