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Facing Eviction, Nix's Blames Mysterious Odor For Troubles

Nix's, one of the first restaurants to open on Front Street, is fighting eviction by landlord HB Nitkin Group, blaming a mysterious foul odor on a decline in business.

Nitkin, the developer of Front Street, says the restaurant owes more than $61,000 in overdue rent, according to court documents and interviews with Nix's owner, Abner Kurtin.

Nitkin filed the eviction notice in mid-November and sought to empty the restaurant by Nov. 30. Kurtin responded by filing a lawsuit on Nov. 30, alleging that Nitkin failed to fix a problem that allowed a foul odor to waft into Nix's. The odor first appeared this summer and has cut into business, causing Nix's to lose money, Kurtin said.

Kurtin said Nix's has spent nearly $10,000 for studies to determine if the odor was coming from inside the restaurant, which is located between the Capital Grille and Infinity Music Hall & Bistro. The studies turned up nothing, leading Kurtin to believe the odor was coming from outside the space, he said.

City health inspectors visited Nix's on Friday and noticed the odor. The inspectors determined the odor was not being caused by plumbing or related to the preparation of food, a city spokeswoman said.

The Metropolitan District also has visited, and it plans to flush the sewer lines under Front Street when the weather warms up, probably by Wednesday, to see if that will help, an MDC spokeswoman said.

It does not appear the odor is widespread in the area. Neighboring Infinity Music Hall said it has not had a problem. Capital Grille declined to comment.

"The thing about the smell is that it comes and goes," Kurtin said. "It's worse in the summer. It's better after it rains."

He added: "I can't point to mold or asbestos and say, 'see, see, see, see.'"

Nitkin did not return multiple calls and emails seeking comment.

The restaurant is losing about $35,000 a month and also got behind in payments to a vendor, Kurtin said. Nix's lawsuit is asking the court to not make the restaurant pay rent for the months its restaurant business has suffered because of the odor.

Kurtin said Nitkin hasn't been willing to meet and discuss the situation.

Nix's Bar manager, Racheal Taylor, said the smell has deterred regulars from downtown businesses from stopping in. They do keep checking in to see if the odor problem has been cleared up, Taylor said

"They'll say, 'Oh, the smell is still here. We'll have a drink and then go,'" Taylor said.

Construction of the taxpayer-subsidized Front Street was completed in 2010. Then the buildings stayed vacant for two years. Front Street's original opening was intended to be timed to the opening of the Connecticut Convention Center in 2005.

Since the first tenant — Spotlight Theatres opened a four-screen movie theater in 2012 — others have followed: Capital Grille, Ted's Montana Grill and Qdoba restaurant. The area was anchored by Infinity Music Hall & Bistro in 2014.

Most recently, Bear's Smokehouse opened in one of the last remaining spaces.

Kurtin said he remains bullish on prospects for the area and wants to work out an agreement with Nitkin. He expects to see a boost, for example, when the University of Connecticut's downtown campus opens in the fall.

"We want to be here long-term," Kurtin said.

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