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Dante’s calls it quits, others to follow at Dothan mall

Eatery’s attorney claims owner shells out $7,000 monthly but roof leaks.
Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 8:30 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Dante’s Pizza will close at the end of May as businesses continue to desert Wiregrass Commons Mall.

However, Dante’s attorney claims the eatery would have it remained if mall management had been willing compromise on rent payments.

Kaz Espy told News 4 that Dante’s pays over $7,000 monthly for its space. “The majority of rent is for commons maintenance, which I think is laughable,” he said.

Espy claims the mall is in such bad repair that, when it rains, buckets must be placed in the food court because of leaks.

There are also other signs that the 35-year-old shopping center needs a makeover. A walk through the mall reveals dingy carpets with dozens of unsightly stains and empty spaces where stores once attracted throngs of shoppers.

Despite those issues, Dante’s owner Rafael Clemente would stay if he could pay less for space that he has occupied since 1987, per Espy.

Namdar Realty Group purchased Wiregrass Commons in 2018 for $21 million. The company’s website shows it owns 268 properties in 35 states.

A spokesperson for the New York based corporation told News 4 it hopes to reach a resolution with Dante’s owner Rafael Clemente.

“As a long-time tenant at the Wiregrass Commons Mall, Dante’s Pizza is an integral part of our community here. Our team is actively in touch with Dante’s ownership directly on this matter, and we look forward to finding a solution that works for all parties involved,” Adelaide Godwin said in an email.

Malls are struggling in many cities and some have shut down, including Desoto Mall in Bradenton, Florida that closed its doors on April 30.

At Wiregrass Commons, several stores other than Dante’s will close soon, according to those who have knowledge of those plans.

“I don’t think any store in that mall is going to be able to look at their books and justify the rent being paid,” Kaz Espy predicts.

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