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Jacksonville restaurant forced to move because of unmet building safety violations

Central Café has been dealing with leaking ceilings and a roof they feel could cave it any moment.
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 7:46 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - After over 80 years in business, Central Café has to find a new home.

A February letter obtained by WITN News shows a warning sent by city officials that a slew of building violations they called an “immediate safety concern” needed attention in 90 days, or they would need to vacate the building.

Those issues, including leaking ceilings and a roof that business owners said they felt could cave in at any minute, have not been fixed, and the restaurant now has until next Wednesday, May 19, to move out.

“It’s just become really embarrassing,” said Manager Thao Mai, who is also the daughter of the owner. “When new customers come in, and they see all these buckets, they really don’t understand the history of this restaurant and how old it is.”

Documents obtained in public records request submitted by WITN News show the building was originally purchased in 1940 and has been passed down ever since. Information from that public records request also found the property owners listed as Edward and Mary Tallman.

Multiple attempts to contact the Tallmans via phone numbers on record were unsuccessful.

“They informed us that they planned to basically tell the occupants that they had until the May 19 deadline to vacate the property,” said Brian Kelly, Fire Marshal for the city of Jacksonville.

The letter from the city also stated city officials understood the property had been sold, but it’s not clear when they may have happened or to whom.

“We had to deal with it the best that we can,” said Mai. “I’m glad most of our customers understand when we have to put buckets out and everything.”

In the meantime, Central Café is moving to a larger and safer building, but cafe’ owners haven’t announced a reopening date yet

“We don’t want to stay out too long because we don’t want to lose our customers,” said Mai. “There are a lot of customers that come every day.”

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