Atoka businesses blame rent hikes on opening of Reba's Place
ATOKA, Okla. (KTEN) — Herbert Bryant has rented properties on East Court Street in Atoka as office space for more than a decade.
In early March, he received a notice that his rent would increase by $1,000. Bryant was forced to downsize and fit two offices worth of files into just one property.
"I just had the next room rented too, where I put a bunch of stuff in over there," Bryant said. "So it's, 'Get it out of there, or pay a thousand dollars a month.'"
Some renters believe the recent opening of Reba's Place a few doors down is the culprit — they say they have seen an increase in property values with the launch of the country music star's restaurant, driving up monthly rent.
"For the more fortunate, it's not hurting them as bad, but Atoka County is a pretty poor county for the most part," said resident Kevin Rohus. "So for the more unfortunate, it's really hurting them."
Rohus also said Harry's — the barber shop across the street — is facing a similar issue. It is closing its doors after 57 years in business rather than pay the increased rent.
"His landlord said he was gonna raise his rent another thousand dollars," Rohus said. "And Harry, he's 85 years old, he said, 'I'm not paying it. I'm leaving.' So they're pushing the old guys out of town."
In the works for several years, Reba's Place opened its doors in late January.
Rohus set up a crowdfunding campaign to help Bryant with the property expenses.
Johnny Sandmann, landlord of the City Barber Shop, issued a statement disputing claims of increased rent:
"As the property owner, I have kept the rent at $220 per month since I purchased the property in 2017 and have absorbed all increases in cost that have occurred since that time. Recognizing that this is unsustainable, I came up with a plan that would allow Harry to continue cutting hair in that spot for as long as he wants for the same rent of $220.00. I planned to remodel the spot to add additional chairs to make the rent more in line with current market conditions. I met with the tenant last week to discuss the matter with him. While he was not excited to share the space, I explained that the other barbers would work in the afternoons and we could likely set some exclusive hours for him and his customers. I asked him to think about it and we left the conversation there. I’ve not given any rental increase notices or eviction notices and I hope we can work together to find a solution that will ensure this location remains a barber shop for years to come."