GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)- Since 1913, Chili John’s has been in Green Bay Wisconsin. During that time, the restaurant that specializes in chili had tremendous success, even expanding to the west coast. Fast-forward to 1973, when the restaurant opened on Military Ave at the Beacon strip mall, there has been a steady stream of business and fans of the food.

In February 2019, Chili John’s was purchased jointly by local businessmen Jayson Wertel and Paul Wosning. Things were going well and just over a year after the new ownership, COVID-19 hit the state and business slowed to a full stop. A majority of businesses had to completely shut down, including Chili John’s, as everyone had to navigate through the uncharted territory that the virus brought in.

“The landlord and I, along with my business partner, haven’t been able to work out a new lease at our current location,” said Jayson Wertel. He says that they have tried a number of times to come to an agreement, but due to the COVID-19 setback, revenue is down.

Jayson says that he received notice from the Landlord Terri Hoehne, which stated that among other things, there would be a significant increase of rent.

“Our lease has ultimately increased by 63%,” said Jayson. He continues, “We had to shut down our business for three and a half months and our revenue is just not there.”

Local 5 reached out to Hoehne for comment and have not heard back. Chili John’s will close at the end of the business day on July 25. They are currently working with the Military Ave Business District to try and find a new permanent location. In the meantime, you can stay up to date on their progress by visiting their Facebook page.

On July 16th Terri Hoehne, current landlord of Chili Johns released the following statement to Local 5 News:

“I owned and operated Chili John’s Restaurant for nearly 30 years and all those that know me will tell you I worked hard to make it successful. Why would I want this business to close or leave that location when I am so proud of it? After my divorce, I owned just the building but not the business. I am a single elderly lady, and this is my primary income.

JAYPAUL, Inc. bought Chili John’s Restaurant from the previous owner on February 28, 2019 and assumed the existing lease. They have only been my tenants for 14 months. Their lease expired on May 30, 2020.

At the beginning of the shutdown, Jayson Wertel and Paul Wosnig told me they were not going to be able to pay rent for a while. They said they were applying for the new PPP loan and would catch up on back rent when they got their funds. I did offer to work out a re-payment plan for the rent they could not pay. Both months were paid before the end of May.

Prior to May 30th, I reached out four times to them regarding the expiration of their lease. I originally offered a two-year lease extension that kept everything the same (rent amount and terms). I only got one brief text from Jayson on May 18th that said while they loved the spot, they were thinking of moving to a single building but that maybe they’d stay, they didn’t know yet but were evaluating their options. I responded that I needed a decision as their lease expires at the end of month.

Again, no response. Just prior to the lease expiring, I then sent a standard 5-year lease extension and a copy of the section of his current lease that showed what rent would be and what the terms are if he stayed on as a month-to-month tenant. Rent increases as a month-to-month tenant, that is a standard clause on most commercial leases. As a month to month tenant there’s more risk and expense for the landlord.

On June 19th, he finally contacted me by email and indicated that for the next 12 months he wanted the current rent discounted 45% (which included the next three months FREE.) He also stated he would not pay any rent at all if Covid closed his business again.

When I told him I was unable to do that, that I could not financially support his business and pay my own bills, he said, “we will be having our moving out sale for the next 10  days and spend the next few days of the month moving out to our new location.”  He then immediately posted the following statement on Facebook: “Our Military Ave lease expires July 31. Our landlord wants to INCREASE our rent 63%. Unable to have dine-in for 3.5 months due to Covid, we are forced to leave our home since 1986.”  

As a result of his half-truth post, people are attacking and saying terrible things about me. Some have even posted my personal information. They think I am some big greedy corporate landlord with many properties that is forcing one of our hometown favorite places out of business. I am not any of those things and it’s truly a shame that people are condemning me without knowing what really happened.

This has been Chili John’s home for 44 years and it would be sad to see them leave. I am still willing to offer them a 2 or 5-year lease extension at the same rent and terms that they always paid.”

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