COLUMBIA — Two local restaurants at the corner of Hitt and Elm streets plan to relocate by the end of the year after MU* declined to extend their leases.
Currently, the Curators of the University of Missouri own both the land and buildings at 209 and 203 Hitt St. where the International Cafe and Bambino's Italian Cafe are located. The restaurants' contracts with the university expire in November.
Elizabeth Gumati, an owner of International Cafe, said she received a notice in 2005 that the university would not renew the lease.
Gumati and her husband, Mohamed Gumati, bought property between Lakota Coffee Co. and Main Squeeze at 26 S. Ninth St. in 2003 as an investment.
Gumati said they never considered moving their business until they received the notice from the university. They plan to move to the new location on Ninth Street by this December, she said.
International Cafe has been operating at its current location since 1989. Gumati said the business could have moved to Ninth Street sooner but decided to stay until November to enjoy one last summer with the restaurant's tree-shaded patio, which Gumati said she will miss.
Jeff Weaver, the owner of Bambino's Italian Cafe, said he knew when he bought the restaurant two weeks ago that the university would not be renewing the lease.
"We are not closing," Weaver said. "We are just moving."
He said he is looking for a new location and would like to stay in the downtown area.
Gumati and Weaver both said they've heard that the university wants to build a performing arts center on the 21,100-square-foot property, but they've heard nothing official from the school. A conceptual plan for redeveloping downtown, put together by Sasaki Associates on behalf of the city, MU and Stephens College in 2006, shows a performing arts center at Hitt Street and University Avenue and identifies the cafe sites as prime land for a mixed-use development.
Christian Basi, associate director of the MU News Bureau, said there are no concrete plans yet.
"While a final decision about specifics has not been made, we will be utilizing the property for official university use," Basi said in an e-mail. He added that MU has no plans to demolish the existing buildings soon.
According to the contract between the Curators of the University of Missouri and two restaurants, the monthly rents were $950 for International Cafe and $1,502 for Bambino's Italian Cafe, for a combined total of $29,424 per year.