Grove Arcade moves to oust Ali Baba

The executive board of the Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation has decided to evict the Ali Baba restaurant, which is owned by Ali Sherif. At issue is the question of whether cooking is permitted in the unvented unit rented by Sherif, who has been ordered to vacate by Aug. 8.

Arcade leases state that cooking is not permitted in unvented units. The board made the move in response to complaints from other tenants about cooking smells and threatened the restaurateur with eviction last winter.

The city of Asheville leases the building to the Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation for $1 per year, for 198 years. The foundation struck an agreement with Progress Energy (formerly Carolina Power and Light) to refurbish the structure, and Progress Energy has since sold its interest in the building to Bank of America. The first-floor units are managed by the foundation.

The foundation Mission Statement is:

To effectively operate a premier destination in downtown Asheville filled with successful businesses and educational programs that reflect our mountain heritage and cosmopolitan taste:

The Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation supports the mission by:

• Attracting and supporting a unique variety of retail businesses, restaurants, galleries, and offering a mix of food, products and services
• Encouraging the sale of locally made products
• Creating retail opportunities for locally owned entrepreneurs as well as established retailers
• Promoting businesses that provide essential services to the local population
• Inviting visitors to seasonal celebrations
• Creating vibrant destination in an elegant setting

Xpress has obtained minutes of a recent meeting of the Grove Arcade Executive Board, which are reprinted below.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer


Robby asked Laura Copeland to discuss the issue of Ali Baba cooking again in Suite #113. Laura presented an overview of the past eighteen months; the space is not vented to the outside and the lease specifically states that cooking is not allowed without external ventilation.

Ruth and Madeline have met with the principals as well as sent letters notifying Ali Sherif he is in non-compliance with the lease due to cooking. Doug Tate, with McGuire, Wood & Bissette has also met with the owner. Staff suggested that Ali Baba move to Suite #136 prior to the space being leased by Jazzy Giraffe which was equipped with external ventilation; owner declined to move. Additionally staff researched and located a vent-less hood but the owner refused to purchase the equipment. GAR has installed special carbon filters which are changed monthly at our cost.

The Executive Board feels this is a liability issue because we are aware of the cooking in violation of the lease. We also have an obligation to the other tenants in the building such as Four Corners-Home and Jazzy Giraffe who have expressed to us numerous times that cooking odors are noticeable in fabrics and the strong scent of cooking odors permeate their stores.

Ali Baba is in complete disregard of the rules and regulations and continues to violate the lease after receiving a demand to cease cooking on February 13, 2007; his son assured staff that he would not cook again but after a few weeks the elder Ali Sherif begins cooking again and claims he is within his rights because he received City of Asheville approval on his equipment.

Laura said the Executive Board is recommending that Ali Baba be evicted.

Bill Massey mentioned that Four Corners-Home and Jazzy Giraffe have experienced expense with cleaning associated with fabrics and cooking orders; staff to document. Bill also mentioned we might be able to arrange a cease cooking contract if we would reimburse for upfit costs; staff said it would be too costly. 

Angie Chandler advised us to have talking points ready; the press is very talkative and we need to be able to tell our story.

Robert Sipes made a motion that staff has approval from the Board to proceed with eviction of Ali Baba after consulting with attorney; motion seconded by Jerome Jones and approved by Board vote.

About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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14 thoughts on “Grove Arcade moves to oust Ali Baba

  1. Dionysis

    I’ve never dined at Ali Baba’s (but have at other eateries there), so David’s comment suggesting it is the ‘best’ there may be true; I cannot say. However, based upon the information in this piece, the owner should be evicted as soon as possible. Ignoring his obligation and creating problems for other tenants is dead wrong. Since Mr. Sherif is unwilling to do what is right, then kick his butt out as soon as possible.

  2. Lillie

    I love the comment that “the press is very talkative” so they had better come up with excuses.

    This is WRONG. I will not shop at GA without Ali Baba. Mr. Sherif is SUCH a nice man. Much nicer than those tattle-tales at Four Corners and Jazzy Freakin’ Giraffe. Give me a break. Like the people who are buying their stuff don’t have food odors in their own home.

  3. JohnB

    Yeah, Ali Baba was the only reason I ever went to the GA. Such amazing food, I can’t even begin to praise it enough. There goes one of the best places to eat in town.

  4. Debbie, Rutherfordton, NC

    We used to drive over an hour to come to the GA for only one reason, to dine at Ali Baba and to socialize with the owners. They are an amazing family. The upscale shop owners next door won’t get anymore business when they leave. As a matter of fact, I would have never even came in if it were for Ali Babas !!! Will never come again without them.

  5. Ali Baba

    Thanks anyone on this blog for voicing support for Ali Baba to stay in the Grove Arcade and to continue to serve our asheville community by providing them with healthy and affordable food. The most important thing to us is the friendship that we make with our customers.

    The Grove Arcade has no legal basis to evict Ali Baba. Ali Baba has a lease with the GA that approves cooking, and the lease does not mention food aroma. Also, prior to opening Ali Baba we recieved approval from the city department, health department, and the fire department to cook inside Ali Baba space. Ali Baba is no way in violation of the lease.

    We would deeply appreciate if you can send your support of Ali Baba to the Grove Arcade management or any other person who might help us to stop this illegal eviction.

    Thanks again for your suppport.

    Family of Ali Baba

  6. Debbie from Rutherfordton, NC

    MMmmm those lovely food aromas are what lure people into the GA. The only odors I’m smelling are those of upper class shop owners who have nothing else to complain about. Seems the owners of Ali Babas have been very compliant. I can’t believe they even changed their menu for those snoots. I’d rather smell fresh homeade baklava over imported, overpriced, gift items they are selling next door anytime. WE LOVE YOU ALI BABA! Hugsssssss Neal, Debbie and sons!!!

  7. I have spoken with the owners of Ali Baba today and read the lease agreement, and I contacted the management of the Grove Arcade. Executive Director Ruth Summers declined to comment on the advice of the Arcade’s attorney.

    The lease specifically stipulates “no cooking without a written letter of consent.” There is no letter of consent. The Grove Arcade management is terminating the lease because the Alis cook in their unit.

    In their defense, the Alis note that the menu was approved as part of their lease (it is attached as a condition of the lease) and that it doesn’t seem possible to approve sale of cooked food by a restaurant without implicit approval of cooking.

    Furthermore, they state that the Arcade management knew that they were steaming food and baking bread from the outset and had permitted the practice for a long period of time before the cooking clause was invoked. They state that the only change they have made in their cooking practice over time is to reduce the amount of garlic in recipes due to complaints about odor.

    Today the Arcade refused the Alis’ rent payment beyond Aug. 8, and repeated instruction to vacate. The Alis have contracted with an attorney and the matter will presumably be resolved either in negotiation or in court.

  8. Ali Baba

    Responding to Mr. Cecil’s message, we did receive consent to cook in Ali Baba’s space by the Grove Arcade’s previous landlord Mr. Aaron Pohl-Zaretsky. The blue print includes cooking equipment and a menu that was attached to the lease. The blue print cannot in anyway be designed(as the lease mentions) without the approval of the Grove Arcade Landlord. The menu attached to the lease included detailed food and cooking methods.

  9. kevin schaefer

    I went to T. C. Roberson High School with Amro and have been an avid patron of Ali Baba. As with many others posting, Ali Baba was the only reason I went to the Grove Arcade. This attempt at eviction reeks of the complacent racism that permeated Asheville as long as I lived there. The only way to prosper is to welcome variety and encourage a mixture of cultures and backgrounds. Look at the dusty, disemboweled heart of your city, Pack Square, and decide whether you want to continue to promote Asheville as merely a getaway, as did the Vanderbilts, or to form it into a center of cultural vitality, an actual home, not a retreat, nuturing and stimulating the creative and compassionate intentions of her people, instead of the consumptive.

  10. I’m sorry Kevin, but I think you are jumping the gun a little bit by screaming racism. Instead of racism it seems like the landlords are just wanting them out because they are trying to attract a more “upscale” crowd, which is crap.

    The problem with the Grove Arcade is that there are very few actual businesses there that cater to locals. It’s possibly the most blatant tourist centric location in Asheville.

    I might stop in the Arcade to have lunch, but other than for food I can’t think of one use for the building.

  11. Angie

    Ali Baba is such an enhancement to the downtown area and to the Grove Arcade. My husband and I have eaten there many times and the food is excellent. Why is GA management trying to destroy such a good business??? In the late 1990’s and early 2000, GA was begging for businesses to move in from anywhere and any type of business so that they could make money and fulfill their dream of filling up all spaces in the Grove Arcade. Now that they have accomplished this and have reached their goal, now they want to destroy these business owners that strongly believed in them (Grove Arcade management) and helped them to reach their dream. Leave Ali Baba alone and the hard working family that built their business on the dream that Grove Arcade promised them.

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