Community donations saves Fely's- for now

March 07, 2007 11:00 pm

Wescom Wire Service

BROOKINGS – Fely's Cafe owner Fely Johnson has paid Port of Brookings Harbor all of her back rent after falling more than $5,000 behind.

Johnson told the Curry Coastal Pilot she had received so many donations she could pay her back rent, March's rent and taxes,which totals $5,662.09. Fely's Cafe was named the best place to get burger in The Daily Triplicate's and Curry Coastal Pilot's Readers' Choice Awards last month.

But rent is only a part of the challenges facing Fely's. It was discovered last week the cafe is in noncompliance with a federal regulation that oversees the RV park, instructing the port to develop the area as a public, outdoor recreation facility. According to state officials, a restaurant does not fall under that category.

Fely and about 15 supporters presented the check Tuesday to Port Executive Director Dave Scott along with a letter saying her business should be exempt from the federally funded RV park because it is on a different tax lot.

"We need to again become a united group with a new direction," Johnson wrote. "I have too much invested to see it all lost. I will continue to support the Port of Brookings Harbor, but we need some cooperation from port management."

Scott told the Pilot Monday that Johnson will still have to sign a legal agreement that will allow her to stay on a month-to-month basis until July 15. After that time, Fely's Cafe will have to move, he said.

"The Port of Brookings Harbor cannot supercede the federal government," Scott told Johnson and her supporters Tuesday.

Johnson said she was overwhelmed by the support she received after word of the situation became public.

"I would like to thank everybody in the community for helping me out and treating me like they're family," she said. "But we're not done yet and have a long way to go. I'm still looking to the port for help."

Scott, in interviews last week, said he and Oregon state officials are seeking ways to help the cafe in its transition.