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Hampden’s Golden West Cafe launches $750,000 GoFundMe to buy building

Hampden’s Golden West Cafe has launched a GoFundMe in the hopes of buying the Avenue property where the restaurant is located.

The fundraising goal is $750,000, or most of the amount restaurant owner Samantha Claassen said she would need to place an opening bid on the property, which goes up for auction May 21. The property in question includes not only Golden West, but also neighboring restaurants Souvlaki and Philly Best.

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News of the sale was first reported in the Baltimore Business Journal.

Though Claassen’s lease doesn’t expire until 2023, she told The Baltimore Sun last week that she worries that a new owner would raise the restaurant’s rent, currently set at $3,710 per month, according to the auction listing, and force it out of the location it’s called home since 2003.

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The Golden West Cafe pictured in 2011 in Hampden. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun
The Golden West Cafe pictured in 2011 in Hampden. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

The auction listing for the property refers to existing tenants as “below market rents for three tenants averaging $13/sq. ft. with leases ending in 2023.”

Claassen said she and neighboring owners have sought traditional financing to buy the space, but have been turned down by banks leery of lending to restaurants amid the pandemic. “We are in a race against time and fighting to keep independent businesses like ours, alive,” she wrote in a message to prospective donors. As of early Tuesday evening, Golden West’s GoFundMe had raised over $3,000.

GoFundMe has become a popular alternative for restaurants owners looking to save their businesses through the years, with mixed results. In 2019, the owners of Mount Vernon’s The Elephant tried to raise $600,000 they needed to stay open, but fell far short, raising only around $6,000. Others have succeeded. During the pandemic, Remington’s Ottobar raised $150,000 and was able to survive. “It makes me weep with joy,” said Ottobar owner Tecla Tesnau.

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