Natives restaurant closes its doors

The iconic Colombian restaurant Natives, in Jackson Heights, Queens, has closed its doors because of a long legal dispute between the owner of the building, Show Lain Cheng, and the proprietor of the restaurant, Consuelo Quintero.

Here’s a summary of the more detailed report that appeared in Spanish on the journalist’s website:

The problems that contributed to closing the local hotspot—which also included a theater on the second floor–began after a fire on the rooftop of the building in December, 2005, according to Quintero, who says the city found a host of building code violations after the fire and, “The owner of the building said that I had to pay for those violations, apart from my $32,000 monthly rent.”

Charging that Quintero owed a six-figure sum in back rent, Cheng took her to court in February.

“I’m not going to reconcile,” Cheng said in a short telephone interview. “She didn’t pay the rent so I will take back the place.”

The building, at the corner of 83rd Street and Northern Boulevard, has received 85 fines since 1974 for violating municipal construction codes, 19 of which remain open, according to a spokesman for the Department of Buildings.

Natives opened its doors in 1990 when Quintero rented the first floor of the building that Cheng had acquired in 1987 for $2.9 million. Through the years, the Colombian restaurant gained popularity amongst the residents in the neighborhood.

The front of Natives restuarant on Northern Blvd. in Queens

In 2001, with its new motto of “Cuisine, Art and Folklore,” Quintero rented the second floor, which was formerly rented out by a church, and took charge of Boulevard Theater, a 774 square foot space with room for 398 people, constructed by the theater architect Herbert J. Krapp in 1925.

In the last decade, a large number of Latin American artists have performed at the Natives theater, especially those of Colombian origin.

“Consuelo has fought an incredible battle in the past three years to keep this place open,” said Eduardo Giraldo from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Queens. “The owner of the building never tried to solve these problems and so she lost one of the first Colombian restaurants in the area and a star theater for the Colombians and all of the Latino community.”

However, Quintero says she’s ready to reopen her restaurant. She says there’s money for the back rent in an account the two opened jointly and, “The only thing I need is that Cheng maintains her word and accepts the money that’s in the account and lets me open the restaurant again.”

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