Their optimism about P. Joseph Project -- a permanent pop-up in the Squash Blossom in downtown Phoenix -- certainly was short-lived. Three and a half weeks after Jason Raducha and chef Patrick Boll signed an agreement with Squash Blossom owner Brian Lester to share the space, the pop-up partners had a falling out with their landlord.
According to Raducha, Lester reneged on his end of the deal. Here's the story as Raducha tells it:
Raducha says he and Boll signed an agreement with Lester that gave them two things: a two-week grace period on rent and the use of Squash Blossom's liquor license and bar. As per the agreement, Lester would run the beverage side of the business. But just before Christmas, Lester told Raducha and Boll that they owed him rent for the first two weeks. Additionally, Raducha says, Lester bought inferior product for the bar (Big K Cola, for example, instead of Coca-Cola), which meant the pop-up boys felt compelled to stock their own beverages.
Now here's Lester's version of the story:
When Lester started shopping around the idea of a permanent pop-up, he got two or three bites, but he went with Boll because -- even though Boll had less money than some others who were interested -- he had more experience. Lester suggested that Boll throw in a little seed money but agreed to the two-week grace period on rent, which was going to be somewhere between $100-$150 per night (costs would be higher on weekend nights). Lester also expected some compensation for utilities. He was thinking maybe $40 per day. At the last minute, Boll showed up with Raducha, whom he introduced as his partner, and the draft of a lease agreement which, Lester says, no one ever signed. Lester was never given any money up front, and when he approached Boll and Raducha, three weeks down the line, about giving him some money (he asked for $300), they balked and decided to walk.
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Lester says he was astonished. "They freaked out," he says. "Why would you quit over nothing?" His contention is that they could've ironed everything out and the partnership would've worked. He has no hard feelings but realizes now both sides should've been more clear early on and, they should've put something in writing. He never received a dime.
In any case, P. Joseph Project is currently on hold. Raducha and Boll are looking for another permanent pop-up space, and they say they're willing to be flexible. At this point, they will consider a permanent space, a revolving space, a space that allows them to do dinners once a month or once a week. They just want to find a home to "fuel the passion."
Lester is also looking for a pop-up partnership at Squash Blossom. "I have to start all over," he says, "but I'm a big supporter of this idea of shared space. I think this will work."