Bangor’s only Pakistani restaurant will close permanently after it was evicted from its downtown storefront.
Bahaar Pakistani Restaurant, which has been closed since 2017, will have to leave its Hammond Street location after a district court judge ruled Monday that landlord Paul Cook could terminate its tenancy.
Cook said the restaurant had not had a lease since he bought the building in 1999, and served Bahaar owners Noor and Zafar Khan with a no-cause eviction notice in December after initially seeking to evict the restaurant last fall for nonpayment of rent.
No-cause evictions allow landlords to evict tenants who don’t have a lease.
The restaurant had been closed for five years due to code violations that included faulty plumbing and electrical wiring, leaky pipes and the lack of a grease trap and proper permits, according to city records.
Zafar Khan, who co-owns the restaurant at 23 Hammond St. with his sister Farzana and brother-in-law Noor, said that his family had poured “a lot of blood, sweat and tears” into managing the restaurant, and that they had since addressed those problems but remained closed because of a conflict with Cook over a structural safety issue in the restaurant basement.
Khan said that the basement was missing several support beams and that a brick column supporting the building hadn’t been properly reinforced, which Cook and Bangor code enforcement director Jeff Wallace refuted.
“I have no idea where to go from here,” Khan said. “There’s nothing left for us.”
Cook owns 23 Hammond St. in addition to a nearby building on the eastern side of Central Street, which houses Bagel Central and the Briar Patch bookstore, according to property records. The Hammond Street building includes other businesses like The Grind House and Bangor Sandwich Company and was assessed at $469,800 last year, according to city records.
“We put $40,000 or $50,000 worth of work into this place,” Khan said.
Khan’s sister was emotionally attached to the building so she didn’t want to move the restaurant from its Hammond Street location, even when Bahaar came under financial pressure as it addressed its code violations and then had to shut down, Khan said.
“This is like my sister losing her baby,” Khan said. “I don’t have the courage to call her and tell them, because I just don’t know how she’s gonna react to it.”
Khan said he stopped paying the $700 monthly rent in June 2020 because Cook did not respond to his concerns about the brick column in the basement.
Wallace testified at the Monday eviction hearing that the building was structurally sound. Jeff LaBree, a Bangor housing rehabilitation coordinator who also inspected the basement at Khan’s request, said that he recommended an engineering study to determine if there were any problems.
Cook said he fixed the issues in the basement within 60 days after Khan told him his concerns.
“I responded to it quickly and beyond what was required of me,” Cook said. “I just think it’s best to go in different directions.”
Cook said that the judgment would take effect in a week, after which he would apply for permission to take back the storefront, but that he was willing to give Bahaar up to a month to pack up and leave.
Bahaar had operated at 23 Hammond since 1991, and persevered after a man threatened Noor Khan four days after 9/11 because of his Pakistani ancestry. Police arrested the man, and the community rallied behind the restaurant.
The Khan family immigrated to Bangor in the 1980s, and closed the restaurant for long periods of time when they visited family in Pakistan.
Khan said he didn’t know whether his family would be able to reopen the restaurant in a new location.
“We just need help from the community to move and find a different place because we don’t want to leave,” Khan said. “We don’t want to stop serving this community because they love this food, and we would like to keep that going.”