The owner of the now-closed Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits says he is looking to hire four new employees and open in a new location in about a month.
Matt Victoriano recently raised $28,643 in an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to save his nearly 8-month-old coffee shop and bar. He announced on Facebook this week that he was “looking for a coffee shop manager, bar managers, food manager, and event/marketing manager.”
Victoriano’s decision to use the proceeds from the campaign to start fresh – and not pay the more than $18,000 he owes in back rent – has perplexed his original landlords on West Parrish Street in downtown.
“It seems odd that he would have all this money but not use it for what he said he would use it for,” said Aaron Averill, who owns the building where Intrepid leased space with his wife Stacy Jasper. “So I don’t know if he is posturing. It’s a little confusing. So I think there may be more discussion that we need to have.”
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Averill said he was surprised when Victoriano asked recently to cover his back rent with a promissory note.
Victoriano said he was clear about his situation from the start of the campaign.
“I specifically stated that it would either be to pay back rent and stay in the space or be used to open up in a different location,” he said in an interview this week. “People didn’t donate money to the Indiegogo funds to pay my debt to (his landlords), and there are other people that I owe debt to and family members and credit cards that I owed money to before my landlords.”
The wording for the campaign wasn’t so candid.
“While business was expanding rapidly during the spring, it stagnated to such a degree during the summer that my landlords have given me until September 7 to pay past rent or close the business,” the wording on the Intrepid Indiegogo campaign stated.
Victoriano, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant who served two tours in Iraq, opened Intrepid in January with a mission to create a community and veteran-friendly place that serves coffee and cocktails.
While the mission has been celebrated by the community and covered by national and local media, the shop’s revenues failed to meet the aggressive income goals needed to cover about $15,000 in expenses each month.
Around Aug. 12, Averill had put Victoriano on notice that back rent had to be paid by Aug. 22 or Intrepid would need to be out by Sept. 7. It was the third time Averill had asked for back rent.
On Aug. 22, Victoriano launched the Indiegogo campaign seeking to raise $27,000 to save his business. He never contacted the landlords to ask whether they would let him stay. Victoriano has said he hoped to convince his landlords to let him stay.
The goals for the money included refining the bar to draw in an evening crowd, installing a street sign, hiring a manager, “paying past due rent” and using specialized training to launch weekly Intrepid events.
Despite his business challenges, on Aug. 27 Victoriano was among 12 people named “Champions of Change” and honored in a White House ceremony that celebrated nonprofit organizations and small businesses seeking to help veterans and their families. The recognition and related media attention helped fuel the success of the Intrepid’s crowdfunding campaign.
“After Matt told us he had achieved his campaign goal, we offered for him to stay after he paid all his back rent,” Averill said. “He declined the offer and chose to move out.”
Victoriano said he was concerned about whether the offer meant he could stay a couple days or a couple months.
“It would be unethical to pay debt with the money that people paid with the full expectation that I would not be able to remain open,” Victoriano said.
On Sept. 2, Victoriano announced on Facebook and through an update on his Indiegogo campaign that he wouldn’t be able to stay in the space. The campaign, which had 582 funders, had already surpassed its goal.
Averill said they ultimately wanted a tenant that brought more traffic to that area of the street and an owner who consistently paid the rent, which helps the couple pay the mortgage on the building that they spent more than $1.2 million to renovate.
Victoriano said he is now looking at two spaces, including one at Golden Belt currently occupied by a pop-up shop for Carrboro Coffee Roasters.