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Posted on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Seva restaurant may be moving from four-decade home in Ann Arbor

By Janet Miller

Seva Restaurant, an Ann Arbor institution for nearly 40 years, may be moving.


Seva's longtime location on East Liberty Street. file photo

After almost four decades inside the VFW Hall building at 314 E. Liberty, the vegetarian restaurant is looking for a new home after they were told their rent would increase by more than 50 percent, said Maren Jackson who, with husband Jeff, owns Seva.

A new downtown location for Seva has been identified, Jackson said, and lease negotiations are under way. She would not identify the address until a lease is signed, likely next month. “It’s not a done deal,” she said.

Seva, along with the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, housed in the basement of the VFW Hall, have been operating on a month-to-month basis for close to a year, Jackson said. The businesses were unable to agree on the terms of a new lease with the VFW, which wanted to increase rent by more than 50 percent, she said.

“No one’s the bad guy here. They just wanted way, way, way more than we had been paying,” Jackson said.

The Comedy Showcase, housed in the VFW Hall lower level since 1987, is also looking for a new location, said Jim Chaconas, a listing agent with Colliers International. Owners of the club could not be reached.

Chaconas said the former VFW Hall could also be used for retail or office space, as well as a restaurant.

“There are a lot of people looking for large office space,” he said.

The ground floor and the lower level each are about 4,500 square feet. The property is being listed at $19.50 per square foot for the ground floor and $7.50 per square foot for the basement. Monthly rent would be close to $7,500 for the upstairs and $2,900 for the downstairs.

That section of Liberty between Main and State streets has become increasingly popular, attracting a young professional crowd from Google, Menlo Innovations, Barracuda Networks and more, Chaconas said.

“It’s a good spot. The parking lot is done and the area is pulling in a lot of traffic. There are tons of people there now that weren’t there 10 years ago," he said. "It’s a whole new market.”

Jackson said she didn’t expect a move will hurt Seva, which has been operating in the same location since 1973. The Jacksons purchased Seva from Steve Bellock in 1997. Jackson had worked at Seva for 20 years before she purchased it.

Seva opened a second location in Midtown Detroit, close to Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center, a year ago. It’s been a good year for the new restaurant, Jackson said, with sales exceeding projections.

“That area of Detroit is booming," she said



Sun, May 26, 2013 : 7:31 a.m.

Seva detroit does not filter their water. It is a joke. Get a clue. No one wants to eat healthy vegan food cooked with detroit tap water, then chased with more of the same. Invest in a water filtration system. Be a classy vegan restaurant.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

My wife and I went there one afternoon with our children who were 4 and 2 at the time. We were the only customers seated in the dining room. Our son was crawling under the table and playing a "Marco Polo" type game with our daughter. They were not yelling but just having fun and since no one else was there, I didn't think it to be a problem. Then some snotty waitress came up to us and said, "I'm sorry but I just cannot work with this type of noise, you will have to leave." No, please quiet down or any type of warning. We have not been back since. Our children are now 21 and 19!


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

What did the manager say when you told him/her how your waitress treated you, Jimbo?

say it plain

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Jim Chaconas, let's hear it for him! Will the name him deal-maker of the year for his great work?! Gotta love AA lately, it's becoming so much better than it used to be with these rent increases, woohoo! merry christmas ann arbor from your landlords and brokers!


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

A good article and commentary.showing the true free market is not just about price and exchange of money. 1. The land owners enhanced the "value" of their community. by enabling Seva to stay. Both VFW and Seva then passed that "value" on to the public at large and have each received some amount of value back from like Ann Arbor "free market" contributors.. 2. If their agreement included building maintenance, then Seva owners fell short on their "value" end of the contract. 3. The fact that Seva owners could open up two more operations elsewhere while shorting their Ann Arbor "value" pool either means they were trying to spread the community wealth pool to Detroit or are just plain greedy for money. 4. Unless taxes and "inflation" go up there is little excuse beyond capital greed for land holders to raise rent. Any rise in property value usually stems from demand made by community "value" in which they should be a part of. Raising rent to collect on that "value" comes from simple-minded free marketeers who only know about capital "value" and globalized price. That is the me-only A2 realty trend undermining community value which will in turn cycle back eventually to correct their "value". Do taxes and inflation account for the rapid rise in rent around that part of town? Or just greed? Or projection of future community value being invested in and then preempted through rent?


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 8:45 a.m.

Seva and Comedy Club...If yer reading this. I am one of yer Platinum Supporters! Do Not Listen to the Downtown Realtors! Yer Fan Base is Not college kids! Get ya to a West Side of Stadium venue with Parking. Dig? I speak the Truth? Wannta Survive and Prosper? If so, then Embrace yer Base: Old West Side that will patronize you on the West Side of Stadium that provides Parking! We got more money than college kids and we have the palate fer Vegan and the intellect fer comedy. Look at Me When I'm Talking to You!!!


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 8:27 a.m.

In the cultural history of Ann Arbor, this will be a "blip." Truth be told, the vegan food was not up to par. The bldg was hurting and tenant did not step-up to their contractual responsibility. VFW will survive; the bldg will be re-habbed and a new tenant will move-in. The Seva fans will follow it to a new venue and it will all be good! Happy Ending to a sad story of the past few years. Mold = Not Attractive, as many posters have commented upon!!!

Garry Owen

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 6:44 a.m.

The owners of Seva and Comedy Club faithfully made their rent payments As can be read in these comments by others, there were roof leaks and other problems with the building. which the renters were to fix. The VFW will be renting to a new renter who will do major building renovations, so the building will last many more years. It could be good for both parties for this change. A market study five years ago indicated they were paying the VFW less than 50% of the market value. I wish the reporter would have discussed this with our VFW committee dealing with Seva and Comedy Club the past years and the new tenant lease negotiations. Past Post Commander and Lease Committee Member, John K

L. C. Burgundy

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 6 a.m.

I hope they take the opportunity to update their menu too, frankly - I found it very dated when I ate there and not at all representative of modern vegetarian or vegan cuisine. Their vegan stir fry was just about inedible.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 3:41 a.m.

"The ground floor and the lower level each are about 4,500 square feet. The property is being listed at $19.50 per square foot for the ground floor and $7.50 per square foot for the basement. Monthly rent would be close to $7,500 for the upstairs and $2,900 for the downstairs. " so this is what the rents are being raised to? So Seva's and A2 Comedy Showcase have been paying around $3750 and $1450 and people want to call the property owners greedy? This would have been low for the early 90's, if anything the property owners are generous for keeping rent under market for so many years.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:24 a.m.

Another one bites the dust - downtown is steadily, quickly losing its appeal to me and many others. So sad for the Jacksons - Seva is a treasure. Best of luck for them as they decide what is best for themselves, their staff and the vision for their business. P.S. I beg you -- please have people of varying heights, weights, and ages test your next booth design. My tooshie can't take much more of the wood booth! :)


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:51 a.m.

Most uncomfortable booth ever.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.

If you all ever saw the inside of the kitchen, you would never eat there again!


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 12:26 a.m.

This is a very miss leading article. The VFW had tried for over five years to come to terms with Seva and the Comedy Club. The VFW gave them a fair rent for years in return they were to maintain the building in good repair, which they have failed to do, this is way their lease has not been renewed. The VFW was never contracted for any comment for this article, shame on you Ms. Miller. The VFW spends over 80% of all monies it receives helping veterans and they families, if that sounds like greed so be it. VFW Post 423 has serviced the Ann Arbor veterans community for over 83 years and will continue to do so as long as we can. Milton J. Davis / Quartermaster

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

Thanks for sharing your perspective Milton as well as your years of service. Rest assured we'll be sure to report on future updates regarding the building and Seva's pending move. I'm sure we can all agree it's location on Liberty plays an important role in downtown and look forward to see how it will play a role in the future.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 10:50 p.m.

Moving elsewhere downtown will be fantastic. That building is on its way out and perhaps Seva's can better their menu. I still want my Enchiladas Calabazas however.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

I think they need a new location...the bathrooms alone were dreadful (1940s or so) with rusting everything and decaying tile. I love Seva's food, but the location really needs a remodel (I can't imagine the kitchen's great to work in either, if it's old etc.) I also noticed a musty/moldy smell throughout the business.


Wed, Feb 20, 2013 : 2:34 a.m.

Every time I go, I wish I could vote for Seva for the worst men's room sinks in an otherwise decent place. Maybe it'll be in the next top 10 lists...


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

Sorry; meant the building owners in the first case, and Seva's owners in the second case.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

Can't really fault the owners for charging what the market will bear for rent, and nice to see the owners being gracious about the changes, but don't we lose something when so much gets reconfigured to suit those with the most money? The same has happened in my current neighborhood (in San Francisco) to a staggering degree, and some things have been gained and improved in that, but some things have also been lost. I don't want to live in a sea of moneyed young software engineers and the businesses that only they and others of affluence can afford to and want to patronize.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.



Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

oops mispelt Blimpy!!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

now if Blimpie and Seva could move to the same location and some how have one central row of shared tables my family could eat out in peace ;-)


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:48 p.m.

I think the "greed" comments are misplaced. The building is owned by the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The VFW is a non-profit group for military veterans of overseas service. They advocate for services for veterans, they do volunteer community service, they raise money for aid for veterans and soldiers currently serving. It's understandable to me that they would want to get as much income from their property as they can. They have a newer meeting place out on Wagner Road. Here's their website, they are Graf - O'Hara Post #423 of the VFW: Also, here's a link to the Seva Restaurant website. I think it should have been included in the article.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

It's true Craig, we don't know what agreements the tenants had the with landlord prior. But again, it's not about the VFW as an organization. Which is why I feel the greed comments aren't misplaced. There's a long history of landlords taking advantage of downtown retail rental costs. It's not a secret Ann Arbor is an expensive town to live in.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

dancinginmysoul, unless, and we don't know this, maybe the VFW had kept the rent artificially (by market standards) low. In which case, if that were true, Seva was remiss in not preparing for a rent that was in keeping with the standards of the area.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:07 p.m.

I must respectfully disagree regarding the greed comments. Raising any expense by 50% can be considered seems egregiously high. It's hard to imagine that the expense for the owners (the VFW) increased so much as to justify a 50% increase in rent. This isn't about what the VFW IS, it's about Seva's rent being raised by an astronomical amount.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

$19.50/ sqft is a deal for that location. No wonder Seva lasted so long, having rent that cheap! The three diamonds underground casino in the collonade that just was busted last night by the state police was paying around $40/ sqft.

Christine Moellering

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase should move to Ypsilanti where rent is better and people are more awesome.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Boring, bland, and dated. A change of some sort is probably in order. All those old hippies that used to eat there are on the verge of extinction now. Too much "healthy" living.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

I know the rent listed is an increase but most restaurants pay more than $7500 a month in rent in A2


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Hope there is a menu change including improvements. Expand beyond the boring vegetarian "offerings". It's been quite an unexciting eatery.

Are you serious?

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:58 p.m.

Not sure why they would need to raise prices by 50% unless rent was their only expense! Given that it appears that the rent would be going up by $2,500 (an increase of 50% on $5,000) it seems to me that they would need to increase revenue by that amount. Assume they are open 30 days per month and have 100 customers per day (I have no idea of any actual number), that is 3,000 meals or less than one dollar per meal increase. What am I missing here?

Are you serious?

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

The article only indicates that the RENT is changing, nothing else. So I guess I still do not understand why they would move over the necessity of adding $1.00 to each meal - assuming my guess of the number of customers is correct. I for one would be happy to pay an extra dollar to continue to eat at that location.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Rent is overhead. But you're not factoring in payroll and payroll taxes. Businesses have to pay 13% of payroll as payroll tax. Business insurance, health insurance and taxes. Rent is just one part of overhead Are You Serious.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

rent is overhead dancinginmysoul. it is the singular piece of overhead sited as the reason for moving.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.



Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Hopefully the most boring restaurant in Ann Arbor will be better in a new locations!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

Most boring restaurant in Ann Arbor? You've apparently never eaten in any of several restaurants on Main Street...

Pocket Beaver

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Seva should consider moving to Ypsi!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

I assume the University will buy this one too and knock it down to build a parking lot.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

"...looking for a new home after they were told their rent would increase by more than 50 percent." And we wonder why Ann Arbor is turning into Disneyland where only chain stores and overpriced, "high end" restaurants, bars and boutiques catering to rich students and parents can survive. Greed greed greed. Of course, the city loves the bigger tax revenues.......


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Most people don't adapt well to change. If there is one thing we, as humans can rely on 100%, is change. Seva will continue to serve their loyal followers. Most of the time change is for the better in an institution. Ann Arbor had a population of 35,000 in the 50's and progress has made it over 3 times that size. I would say for the better.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

In the beginning, Seva was apparently known for being on the culinary cutting edge. It lost it's creative innovation somewhere along the way.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

Hmm, sounds like the owners of the VFW are pulling the trigger on greed. The new underground parking structure did its job. Nice, just sad to see the past fade away. I remember Seva as a hippie hangout with lots of great veggie food, beautiful hippies, stained glass, and patchouli.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

I will miss the old Seva, but will follow it wherever it goes. But please, do NOT take those awful, hard church pew booth benches with you. The older I get, the harder it is to tolerate them. In fact, I have avoided Seva during busy times for fear of not being able to get a table with regular chair seating. Good luck!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

Agreed. Those booths are awful.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

Seva in another location would be fine. I'll still go there. Flash: What a great place for Blimpies: right in the midst of the the trendy young crowd in the heart of all of Ann Arbor with parking nearby!


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

I thought maybe Blimpies would look into 709 Packard at State across from Bells.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

@Sooze: Great point, however, the building is far too large for Blimpy unless they wanted to undergo a major expansion. (Which would be awesome..)


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

I was there only once and it was for drinks. I felt the place was dated and was in need of being modernized to keep up with the times. I agree with another poster and smelled a musty order, perhaps because of the age of the decor. Good luck with your new building and maybe I'll stop by for a second chance.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

The building doesn't appear in good shape. The last time I ate there the roof was leaking. And by leaking, I mean I thought it was going to cave in. I hope Seva finds the perfect space. It's a pipe dream to raise rent 50% and expect to fill the space. There aren't that many groups looking for large office space. Especially when tere are already vacancies.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

I'm guessing that they'll tear down and rebuild something taller. They're kinda squished in there. Raising the rent 50% was an easy way to get rid of the current tenant.

Richard Carter

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:57 p.m.

With such a huge bump in rent, I wonder if it were triggered by someone already being interested in leasing the space.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

The free market is what it is. If the building can rent for 50% more than it currently is that is the current market. I'm not sure why anyone would expect the owners of the building to subsidize somebodies vegetarian meal by keeping the rent artificially low. Seva could conceivably raise their prices 50% to cover the difference. But then maybe their customers will stop coming. That is the free market.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:30 p.m.

What's happening downtown is how once well-established community downtowns end up as hollowed out shells.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.


Widow Wadman

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:59 a.m.

Can't see Applebees leasing the space. Not enough parking.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

Too small for a Hooters.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

That's exactly the kind of place that will end up there, unfortunately. Ann Arbor = anytown, USA.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

I agree with Lizzy. I'm sure the Jackson's aren't thrilled they have to move, but the location needed a serious refresh. With a move they get to rebuild. If they find the right location they could wind up with a far stronger business.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

They will end up on the fringes of the city and lose customers.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

I'm looking at this as a positive thing: Seva has been an institution there for years. I always think it's a good thing when a long-time restaurant has to revamp. A move could be a great time for Seva to update and maybe bring in fresh clientele.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

Lizzy, is there anywhere downtown that has rent as cheap as they were paying?


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

I agree -- the menu has become a bit stale. More importantly, it would be great to retrain their staff. They have always had a reputation as having lousy service. I would be interested in going again if they made some changes.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

@Lizzy Alfs, I agree 100%. Seva could really use a make over. While they are a pretty decent restaurant now, wouldn't they be AWESOME if they sourced their menu with local ingredients, as well as having organic choices on the menu. It's not just about vegetarian food anymore, it's about quality, non-gmo foods.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

They must have been getting a pretty good deal on rent before the increase, because $19.50 per square foot isn't that high for that part of town for retail space. I've heard of much worse rents than that. Still, this could be a good opportunity for Seva to move to a fresh, newly renovated space. They have very good food and should still do well no matter where they go.


Sat, Dec 22, 2012 : 1:16 a.m.

81w: I was thinking the same thing. The VFW folks, though, would have been smart to have them sign a long term lease with graduated increases. If push is coming to shove then my guess is they have another tenant lined up.

Richard Carter

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

I think a sudden 50% bump in rent will seem like a lot for anyone.

Lizzy Alfs

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

You're right @81wolverine. That rent is not high compared to some other rents downtown. But considering Seva was there for a long time, I'm sure they were used to paying the same rent for years, so the increase seems like a lot for them.

Widow Wadman

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

I was never a regular at Seva but would go once every few years. The last time I went there I noted a very strong musty odor which killed any chance that I would return. Maybe in a fresh building I would try Seva again.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

I'm in there about twice a week and I've never once encountered any unpleasant smells, and I have a really sensitive sense of smell. Maybe you went on a bad day?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

I hope a chain restaurant doesn't go in there.

David Paris

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 3:03 a.m.

Well, we have a CVS, with a Walgreen's on the way, can a Right-Aid be far behind?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

This. Please.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

Greed is changing this city......and not for the better...


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

Steve, as recently reported, the Prickly Pear is not closing.

Steve Hendel

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

Seva is not a charity, it's a business. I'll bet they move to Main Street area-perhaps the Prickly Pear or Middle Kingdom spots.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

your right, if those greedy Seva customers would pay 50% more for their food the situation would be solved.

Chip Reed

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:59 a.m.

Isn't (wasn't) the original Seva in Columbus, Ohio?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

First Blimpy's, now Seva. Can the Fleetwood be far behind? Please, say it ain't so!!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5 p.m.

AfterDark wins the Internet. If I had a top hat I'd tip it. If I had a mustache I'd stroke it. Brilliant.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Oops, accidentally voted 'down' on this original comment, when I meant to vote "UP". Sorry!


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

AfterDark, it was time that someone finally said what you did. I could not agree more.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:23 p.m. on After Dark!

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

AfterDark if I could give you more thumbs up I would!!!! you nailed it


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

DDA's succeeded in chasing away the clientele for that market. If you're a low to moderate income non-student resident in Ann Arbor you're not welcome anymore. Your concerns don't matter and won't play into any decision making.