STOCKTON -- Nine business along Stockton's Miracle Mile have been shut down over several code violations.
What was once the Empresso Coffeehouse in Stockton’s Miracle Mile neighborhood is now shuttered. Inside the building, business owners were scrambling to save what they can.
“It’s hard. It’s a dark day,” said Vito Casciaro, a co-owner of the Empresso Coffeehouse.
Empresso is just one of nine businesses that have been ordered to vacate the Empire Theatre by city officials.
They said the property owner, Christopher “Kit” Bennitt, failed to address several building code violations.
“We feel like these egregious actions has required us to basically take emergency action to shut down the building,” Stockton's Community Development Director David Kwong said.
Kwong claimed Bennitt signed a voluntary agreement that he would fix fire hazards, electrical issues, and blocked exits. That was last August, and now in June, no improvements have been made. He said the city is trying to avoid a tragedy.
Meanwhile business owners are saddened and frustrated because they said Bennitt had not told them about the long list of violations.
“We’re just trying to get the community to know that this wasn’t our fault, we didn’t know this was gonna happen,” Casciaro said.
While they’ve been ordered to take what they can and completely vacate by Friday afternoon, some are trying to look on the bright side, hoping to reopen again.
“Empresso’s been here for 13 years, a big part of the community of Stockton, the neighborhood, everything. It’s just really unfortunate,” Casciaro said.
We called Bennitt’s real estate company and his lawyer, we have not heard back from either party.
City officials add they believe this building is salvageable, and when asked why they didn’t tell business owners about this potential notice to vacate, they said they relied on the property owner to notify his tenants.
Businesses that have been ordered to vacate include:
Casa Flores, Balance Physical Therapy and Pilates, Salon Serendipity, Empresso Coffeehouse, Gusty's Wings, Catalyst Real Estate Professionals, Carter Financial Solutions, Centrale Kitchen and bar.
Officials also said one resident had been ordered to leave, they are working with him to find him alternate housing.