Rotee opened at the end of March, 2004. As owner Sha Akbar tells Haighteration, business in those first few years was strong, despite a spate of violence on the 400 block.
"[We had] hoped to open more Rotee's in the city. However, we quickly realized we got the rough end of the block, or the 400 block in general... Three or four drive-bys happened, and individuals were shot & killed, the first few months we were in operation - we survived! Business was robust up until 2009. Then we saw a shift in sales, a downturn. And at the same time, the cost of goods increased sharply. We did cut hours for the employees, but, didn't let go of anyone."Then the economic downturn came, which Akbar says proved too challenging for Rotee.
"Moving into 2011 things really took a turn for the worst. We pretty much lost close to 50% of our business, due to the economy. People in general cut back on spending. It has hurt not just us, but, countless others, as we all know. I had to let go of 3 fulltime employees, and cut hours on everybody else. I stepped in to cover all the work of the full-time employees, and it has been rough on me."Earlier this summer, Akbar decided to sell the restaurant and its equipment. He found a buyer -- as Tablehopper reported yesterday, the Blowfish Sushi guys -- and planned for an August closure. Then, just yesterday, Akbar received a shock. His landlord informed Akbar via email that he had decided not to rent the space out after all, to anyone. That means Akbar's deal with Blowfish, worth about $75,000, is off. And Akbar can't keep Rotee in operation either, as his landlord has issued him a 30-day notice terminating Rotee's month-to-month lease. Akbar says he is "stunned" by yesterday's turn of events, calling the situation "devastating." But he's trying to approach the situation with positivity.
"All i know is my attitude is positive for the most part in life, and i will refocus my energy on just that. Being positive!"The restaurant will be closing this Friday either way, and as Akbar says, "any neighborhood support would be appreciated" over these final three days. In our opinion, anyone willing to open a restaurant at Haight and Webster in 2004, and able to keep it running ever since, certainly deserves our collective appreciation. So, get on down to 400 Haight Street this week and show Rotee some love.