After facing high rent bills and a drop in business, Mezza Grill owner Robert Amireh decided to move the restaurant from Broadlands Center Plaza to Old Ashburn Square.
Mezza Grill, which serves Lebanese, Greek and Turkish food, closed its doors May 30 in Broadlands, and this Monday, July 23, it reopened along Ashburn Road. Although the restaurant has been open in its new location for less than a week, Amireh already recognizes he made the right decision. “It was a good move,” he said.
Amireh, who also owns Coney Island Diner along Rt. 7 near the Ashburn Community Church, opened Mezza Grill in Broadlands in 2006. During the first two years, Amireh said business was good, but from 2008 to 2012 it went downhill.
“When we signed the lease, we had a healthy economy and the [Broadlands] shopping center had a lot of traffic,” Amireh said. “In 2008, there were a lot of vacancies and a lot lower traffic than what it used to be in 2006. So many restaurants started closing up.”
Like other business owners in Broadlands Center Plaza, Amireh asked Saul Centers, Inc., which manages real estate in Broadlands, Lansdowne, Ashburn Village and CountrySide, for a rent reduction in 2008. Saul Centers, Inc. granted his request, decreasing his rent from $9,850 to $9,000 per month, he said. But after a year, the company raised Amireh’s rent to the original amount.
“From 2009 to 2012, I requested a reduction six times, and I supplied my statement that I would be losing money in that situation,” Amireh said. “The landlord had been denying us all this time, so I started searching…for an Ashburn location to find another space close by, similar to the one I have, so I could keep my customers who had been established.”
When Amireh, a Lansdowne resident, came across Mezza Grill’s new location, where the rent is $5,000 per month—almost a 50 percent decrease from that in Broadlands—he closed the deal with Wells & Company, which controls Old Ashburn Square.
Saul Centers, Inc. did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
With the location shift, not much about Mezza Grill has changed. The new space is almost 2,000 square feet, while the old spot was 2,500 square feet. The business has the same telephone number, website and menu. It wasn’t difficult for Amireh to make the change, since a French restaurant was previously in place, before closing because of lacking business. Before that, Jerry’s Subs & Pizza filled the space.
“It is not like building it from scratch. I built the Mezza in Broadlands from scratch,” Amireh said. “We have a kitchen in existence and all the improvements are not being done. I just had to bring employment, equipment, furniture, and open and operate.”
Within the next month, Amireh plans to utilize a strip of outdoor space for a patio seating area. He will also build a deck to house tables, chairs and umbrellas on what appears to be a large, vacant parking spot next to the future patio seating area.
And despite two restaurants with somewhat similar concepts nearby—Opa! Mezze Grill, which opened in February in the Ashburn Shopping Plaza, and Mediterranean Breeze, which is just down the road from Mezza Grill—Amireh isn’t worried about competition.
“Our menu is consistent of…80 percent Lebanese, 20 percent Greek and Turkish [food],” he said. “[The other restaurants] are mostly Greek cuisine, not Lebanese. We do have our established clientele. We have been here for the past six years. We are not new to the area.”
Staying in Ashburn was important to Amireh, so although the move is a work in progress—he is still spreading word about the location change and trying to gain new customers—he is simply relieved to keep his business local.
“We are very happy and glad we found a location in Ashburn to continue serving the neighborhood and the community,” Amireh said. “We were worried too much about closing our doors and not finding a location anywhere else because we love to stay in Ashburn.”
For more information about Mezza Grill, its offerings and its menu, stop in for a visit, go to www.mezzagrills.com or call 703-723-7447.