Norcross depot restaurant gets outbid

NORCROSS — For 20 years, the Norcross Station Cafe has been a tradition at the city’s historic depot.

But the restaurant, which was once one of only a handful of destinations in the city’s downtown, will close at the end of this year, after the city approved a new lease for the historic spot.

Luis Fernandez, the owner of Mojito’s, a local eatery just across the street, won the lease last month, outbidding the Norcross Station Cafe owner Ken Weatherford.

“We live in Norcross and we want it to be what it has been (for decades), which is a great part of the community,” Fernandez said, adding that he plans to keep his Cuban restaurant open across the street, converting the depot to a steakhouse style, family friendly eatery. “The train station will still be there. You are still going to get great food.”

Weatherford did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday, but city officials said the lease simply went to the highest bidder, as is Georgia law.

In his sealed bid, Weatherford proposed a $3,000 a month payment, which is $1,000 less per month than the current lease, while Fernandez proposed $7,553 per month.

Fernandez said his bid was consistent with fair market value for the area, based on the square footage.

After 20 years in the community, he knows that Norcross Station Cafe had its share of loyal customers, but Fernandez said many local residents have stopped by Mojito’s to wish him well in the new location, where he plans to have live music on the weekend and open for a Sunday brunch.

Mayor Bucky Johnson said the city is simply following the law in regards to the bid process.

“Council is being responsible stewards of the citizens that we represent,” Johnson said. “If the tables had been turned and the current tenant had been the highest qualified bidder, then the city would have renewed his lease.

“The 100-year old depot is an important and valued part of our community history and for the past 20 years, the Norcross Station Café has helped with downtown’s revitalization,” he added. “We expect the new tenants will continue that tradition of being a great place for people to meet and enjoy a good meal. We wish both parties the very best.”