The owner said he's afraid it could happen to more small businesses that never got federal funding.By Nicole Ford

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Lola’s Bistro is the definition of a dream come true with a lot of hard work for Michael Barnhouse and his wife.

“It’s tough, it’s a tough location. People do come out of their way, like we have regulars from Butler, Beaver. We have a good reputation, but we are sort of the diamond in the rough,” Barnhouse said.

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The two have put their hearts and souls into the North Side restaurant and managed to stay afloat during the pandemic, but not without challenges. The restaurant is in the red when it comes to back rent.

“Because we didn’t have any employees, we couldn’t get the PPP loan or grant, it wouldn’t have been much. The SBA vanished right when we got our taxes for 2020 done, which they required for that grant,” Barnhouse said.

With no funding help, Barnhouse said his landlord hit him with an eviction notice the day the moratorium ended.

“We could have talked to discuss, to work something out. I’ve been here almost a decade,” Barnhouse said.

Pitt Law Professor Jerry Dickinson said this is a common practice, to work out a payment plan between tenant and landlord rather than pushing people out onto the streets. With more eviction notices and back rent to be paid, he hopes more people are willing to compromise.

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“This is about humanity at this stage, humane practices to make sure people have a roof over their heads and access to pay back landlords and to stay in their homes,” Dickinson said.

With the CDC extending a temporary eviction moratorium on Tuesday, Barnhouse is safe for now, but continues to worry about the end.

“The mental stress, you just carry around with you on the daily basis, it’s significant. I’m smiling and keeping my head up, but the reality is it’s always going to eat at you,” Barnhouse said.

There are attorneys like Dickinson offering free services to help tenants with those payment plan conversations with the landlords.

As for the landlord of Lola’s, Kate Kay says the Barnhouse are not being evicted, and they have only been served a notice to quit and also says the property management company has been “extremely forgiving with all of our tenants, including the Barnhouses.”

Kay says she has been working with the Barnhouses for years and has given them “years of forgiveness and opportunities despite having won two judgments against them in magistrate court.”

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Kay also says she is “extremely proud that we didn’t lose, evict, or threaten ANY of our tenants during the pandemic” and as landlords, they too need to make a living and overdue rent can cause financial distress for the property management company.