The former New China restaurant building on Washington Street East will come down after all following a failed last-minute legal challenge by the building’s owner to stop demolition Tuesday.
Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit denied a request from the restaurant’s owner, Phillip Chin, to halt the city’s planned demolition Tuesday afternoon. Bricks from the building’s facade fell onto the sidewalk overnight Feb. 17, which led the city to close multiple East End streets, near the state Capitol.
Chin had filed a preliminary injunction and a motion for a temporary restraining order Tuesday morning. Tabit wrote in the order that the building is currently a threat to public safety, and Chin failed to establish an adequate remedy for repair if the building is not torn down.
A building manager said demolition will begin Wednesday. Crews began removing asbestos from the roof Tuesday afternoon following Tabit’s ruling.
Speaking to reporters outside the Kanawha County Judicial Building after the ruling, Chin said he was sad to see the building go, noting it had been in his family for about 80 years.
The restaurant closed in the late 1990s. Charleston Urban Renewal Authority officials have tried to work with Chin over the years to find a renter for the building and also threatened to seize the building via eminent domain.
Chin’s counsel, John Dorsey, said over the past two years, two different parties have tried to rent the first floor, but the leases fell through.
Dorsey said that “once [Chin] knew he had a problem, he did everything he could do,” saying they worked all last weekend to get contractors to come look at the building. He said the contractor’s opinion was that while the building was damaged and needed repairs, it was not a threat to collapse.
Four Kanawha circuit judges recused themselves from hearing the case before it fell to Tabit. Judges Carrie Webster, Tod Kaufman and Duke Bloom noted they were friends with Chin, and Judge Charles King wrote he may have once commented on the condition of the building and wanted to avoid bias.
Since the bricks fell, Washington Street East has remained closed between Maxwell Street and Sidney Avenue, and Elizabeth Street was closed between Lee Street and Jackson Street.
It was unclear Tuesday how long demolition will take and how much longer streets will be closed.