June 20, 2024

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The Place 2 Be Owner Says Bakery Will Open, Company is Committed to Resolving Challenges – We-Ha

Gina Luari, owner of The Place 2 Be, said the legal issues related to the opening of The Bakery by The Place 2 Be should be resolved by the middle of this month and the build-out will resume.

By Ronni Newton

The owner of The Place 2 Be and founder of its parent company, The Statement Group, said Tuesday that plans remain in place for the opening of a bakery and cafe in Blue Back Square, and while Gina Luari acknowledged the existence of several legal actions that are in process – including with the Constitution Plaza location in Hartford – she reiterated that they are committed to resolving them.

When asked about recent reports by several media outlets based on court documents indicating an eviction notice for the 5 Constitution Plaza location as well as a lawsuit filed by the owner of Blue Back Square, Jeannette Dardenne, spokesperson for The Statement Group, emphasized the company’s “resilient business model and loyal customer base in the food industry” in the following statement shared with We-Ha.com on April 2:

“While acknowledging the challenges faced by many small businesses and restaurants in Greater Hartford and beyond, particularly concerning landlord issues, Dardenne assures that they are committed to resolving these matters promptly. The company prioritizes the safety and satisfaction of its customers above all else, and will take necessary precautions to protect its brand integrity during any legal proceedings or structural concerns. The Statement Group remains dedicated to delivering exceptional experiences and looks forward to overcoming these challenges for continued success.”

Regarding the The Bakery by P2B that is planned for 69 Memorial Road in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square, the court case is in the process of being resolved and that resolution will be communicated soon, Dardenne said.

Luari said in a phone interview with We-Ha.com later Tuesday that court records should indicate the resolution of the matter following a hearing on a motion to strike that is scheduled for April 15. While she cannot comment directly on all matters pertaining to active legal cases, she said there had been changes to the initial rental agreement for the Blue Back Square space to require payment of monthly rent in full prior to opening, and she said she has personally paid the outstanding sum.

Gina Luari, owner of The Place 2 Be sits in one of the Blue Back Square restaurant’s most Instagrammable spots. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

The Place 2 Be opened in Blue Back Square in 2021, and Luari said she has had a great relationship with the landlord, and they had approached her about opening a new business, The Bakery by P2B in the former SPoT Coffee space. That lease was dated April 12, 2023, but although the opening had been taking longer than contractually agreed-upon, the landlord had agreed to allow her to pay half the rent during that delay, amortizing the additional amount to be paid along with the monthly rent once the business opened.

In January 2024, after news media reported about legal issues related to non-payment of rent at the Constitution Plaza location, Luari said Blue Back Square demanded the other half of her monthly rent for The Bakery by P2B be paid immediately – a sum of $25,000 – and at the same time a notice to quit the premises was filed. Luari said she paid the $25,000, and has continued to pay the monthly rent in full even though the bakery is not yet open. Delays – which are not uncommon in construction projects – have affected businesses in West Hartford and throughout the state, and she said the build-out of the space, which was not previously equipped as a full-service bakery, is requiring extensive mechanical updates.

Luari said now that they have come to an agreement build-out of The Bakery by P2B will resume and she has “fingers crossed” that they will make the revised opening date goal of mid-June.

“We cannot comment on the specific details of individual tenant leases, but are excited for all the positive momentum coming to Blue Back Square in 2024 including the opening of Chip City later this week,” a spokesperson for Blue Back Square said in a statement shared with We-Ha.com on Tuesday. Chip City, which offers an array of gourmet cookies and will be located right next to the future site of The Bakery by P2B on Memorial Road, will open April 5.

The signs are up for The Bakery by The Place 2 Be in Blue Back Square. Photo credit: Ronni Newton (we-ha.com file photo)

“I’m spending my own money, investing it right back into the community,” Luari said. While The Place 2 Be’s Instagrammable atmosphere targets Millennials, The Bakery by P2B is intended to be a “third space” where people can relax in a warm, comfortable, and beautiful environment. “I’m so excited about this opening. I want to be part of the fabric of the West Hartford community,” she said.

“It’s a huge financial burden,” Luari said of paying the full rent, but she said she is committed to the project, and as a local brand she remains devoted to Hartford and is committed to continuing to invest in the West Hartford and Hartford area.

The Place 2 Be also has locations in New Haven and Springfield, MA, and a location planned for Dallas, TX.

Regarding Constitution Plaza, the The Hartford Business Journal first reported in January 2024 that the landlord, identified in legal documents as 5CP Master Tenant, LLC, filed suit against Luari and The Place 2 Be for breach of lease related to non-payment of rent at the nearly-5,500-square-foot location at 5 Constitution Plaza in Hartford. The Place 2 Be was subsequently issued a notice on Feb. 22, 2024, to quit possession of their premises in Constitution Plaza as of Feb. 27, 2024. The Place 2 Be was served with an eviction notice for 5 Constitution Plaza dated March 18, with a return of service date of April 2, 2024. A hearing on the eviction is set for July 2, according to online court records.

Kinsley Street, right in front of The Place 2 Be location at 5 Constitution Plaza, is closed to traffic due to problems with the walkway for the building above. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Constitution Plaza location was damaged in a fire in March 2022 after someone threw a cigarette into a dumpster right outside, and reopened five months later, but the restaurant continues to be plagued by issues related to flooding. Kinsley Street, which is where the entrance to The Place 2 Be is located, is closed off by construction fencing due to dangerous conditions related to the underside of the part of the building that spans the road. Water continues to leak into the restaurant when it rains – she shared a video of shin-deep water in the kitchen – and due to an ongoing dispute with the landlord and property manager regarding filing a claim for the flooding, she has been withholding rent payments. Other than brief closures due to flooding, Luari said, the location remains open.

The Place 2 Be at 5 Constitution Plaza, Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Business continues to be strong despite the setbacks, Luari said. “No one could survive that if they’re not financially stable. … I’ve endured things that would have put anyone out of business.”

Luari said there have recently been more 5-star reviews of The Place 2 Be than ever before. “It’s the highest it’s ever been,” she said.

Luari was recently appointed to the Board of the Boys & Girls Club. Dardenne said they recognized that “a lot of girls look up to Gina,” as a young, ambitious woman devoted to Hartford.

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