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When Z-Burger opened at 2414 Wisconsin Ave. in late 2008, it was without the local chain’s famed hand-spun milkshakes and malts. At the time, Max’s Best Homemade Ice Cream was offering shakes at 2416 Wisconsin Ave., and the owners of Z-Burger (as well as the owner of Rocklands Barbeque at 2418 Wisconsin Ave.) declined to offer desserts, in deference to longtime ice-cream shop owner Max Keshani.

Now that Max’s has closed (and Rocklands is in the process of expanding into the former Max’s space), Z-Burger has brought its 75 flavors to Glover Park. On the menu are a mind-spinning array of milkshake options, including Snickers, pomegranate, maple walnut, blueberry cheesecake, and “frozen hot chocolate.” Shakes cost $4.75 each.

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From the April 2014 edition of the Glover Park Gazette:

The new seating area (and bathrooms) at Rocklands Barbeque (2418 Wisconsin Ave.) should open around April 15, according to owner John Snedden. The restaurant’s expansion into the former site of Max’s Best Homemade Ice Cream (2416 Wisconsin Ave.) will add 19 seats—for a total of 29—and two customer bathrooms—for a total of two.

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From the February 2014 edition of the Glover Park Gazette:

Rocklands (2418 Wisconsin Ave.) expects to open its expanded digs around the first of March, according to owner John Snedden. The barbecue joint is annexing 2416 Wisconsin Avenue, the former location of Max’s Best Homemade Ice Cream, which closed in October. Because Rocklands holds a full-service (CR) liquor license, it is required to get Alcoholic Beverage Control Board permission for the expansion, which will increase the number of available seats from 10 to 29 and add two bathrooms.

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Max’s Best Homemade Ice Cream (2416 Wisconsin Ave.) will remain open for the next few months, according to shop owner Max Keshani. “Yes, I’m here through summer time,” he tells us. Rumors of a lease extension deal have been flying for days, but lawyers for Keshani and landlords Gail and Barbara Bassin have so far declined to comment. (The two parties had previously announced that they would not comment during negotiations but would issue a joint statement on the end result.) Keshani confirmed to us that his lease had been extended, but he did not specify an end date; the rumor we heard was that the extension ends September 30. (Update: it ends October 31; see attorneys’ statement below.) Keshani says he hopes to negotiate a further extension after this one expires: “I’m working harder and harder to stay longer and longer.”

Keshani was formally notified in May that his lease would not be renewed when it expires June 30, and next-door neighbor John Snedden of Rocklands (2418 Wisconsin Ave.) soon announced that he would expand his barbecue shop into the vacated ice cream space. But Keshani, who believed he had been in the process of negotiating a lease extension, was shocked by his ouster, and friends and supporters rallied to his defense, urging the Bassins to reconsider and allow Max’s to remain. Some vilified Snedden, blaming his expansion plans for the end of Keshani’s lease. But the Bassins insisted that their decision to end Keshani’s lease had nothing to do with Snedden.

Snedden, for his part, says he has not received formal notification that his lease on the Max’s space will not begin on July 1, as agreed. But he has not brought in an architect to plan for the expansion, let alone applied for any building permits, he says. When the uproar over Max’s lease first erupted, Snedden told the Bassins he’d be willing to delay the start of his lease, and he has been operating on the assumption that they would take him up on the offer. In the meantime, Snedden says, he has been devoting his time to launching another project: the Right Proper Brewing Company, a Southern-themed brew pub at 624 T Street in Shaw, set to open this fall.

UPDATE: Shortly after midnight on June 28, attorneys for Keshani and the Bassins issued the following statement:

Max’s Best Ice Cream will continue in business at 2416 Wisconsin Avenue through October 31, 2013.  Max and Gail and Barbara Bassin, the owners of the property, have agreed that this represents a fair and reasonable outcome for all involved.  It gives Max and the community the benefit of having Max’s Best Ice Cream in Glover Park for the entire 2013 summer and part of the fall.  We are grateful to John Snedden and Rocklands Barbeque without whose active support this arrangement could not have been achieved.

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The attorney for Mahmood “Max” Keshani, owner of Max’s Best Homemade Ice Cream (2416 Wisconsin Ave.), says lease negotiations between Max and his landlords are ongoing, despite the landlords’ earlier decision not to renew Keshani’s lease when it expires on June 30. “Max and the landlord are in productive discussions and have agreed that there are not to be any statements issued to the press until the discussions have been concluded,” says the lawyer, who has asked that his name not be published. “At that time a joint statement will be issued by the parties.”

Previously, the attorney told us that Keshani had “no intention” of vacating the premises on June 30. He told the Georgetown Current, however, that Keshani might not have the heart to wage a long-term battle to hold onto the building indefinitely. “Max would like to stay in business long enough to pass it down to his [baby] grandson,” the attorney was quoted as saying. But given “how long that process would play out … [and] the stressors involved, it’s probably settling in a different way.” We’ve been told by someone not involved in the negotiations that the attorney hopes to extend Keshani’s lease through November 30.

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An attorney representing Mahmood “Max” Keshani, owner of Max’s Best Ice Cream (2416 Wisconsin Ave.), says the merchant plans to remain in his storefront shop past the June 30 expiration of his current lease. “I sent a [lease] proposal to [landlords Gail and Barbara] Bassins’ attorney yesterday afternoon,” says the lawyer, who answered our questions by email on the condition that his name not be published. “Max has no intention of vacating on (or before) June 30.” Keshani’s attorney says that he would have sent a proposal to the landlords sooner, but he wanted to give them “the courtesy of making the first offer, since they are in the unenviable position of having two tenants who both have legitimate claims to the same space.” The second tenant to which the attorney refers is Rocklands Barbeque (2418 Wisconsin Ave.), which has signed a lease to expand into the Max’s space.

When asked what legitimate claim Keshani will have to the storefront after his lease expires—given that the lease contains no option to renew—the attorney declined to outline his legal strategy, but said that Keshani had received two previous lease extensions even though there was no specific option to renew then, either. Further, he says, Keshani and his daughter, Neda, had been engaged in lease negotiations with the property management firm—something the firm’s president has denied. “Max and his daughter were verbally given the cost per month for the lease extension, accepted the cost, and were waiting for the documents to review and sign them,” the lawyer says. “They were in touch with the management company and were not told their lease would not be renewed until they received [written notice to quit] in early May.” As we have previously reported, Neda wrote a letter to the management company on April 26, one week before the written notice to quit was delivered, expressing the shop’s interest in renewing the lease and requesting a letter stating the monthly rent.

In a statement released yesterday through their attorney, the Bassins said that Keshani was informed last fall that his lease would not be renewed. “It is not clear why Max chose to think that the lease would be extended,” they said. The Bassins’ attorney could not be reached for comment on Keshani’s lease proposal.

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Last week, people began entering Rocklands (2418 Wisconsin Ave.) to angrily accost its employees, according to owner John Snedden. In addition, the restaurant’s tiny “World Headquarters” building on 37th Street was pelted with eggs. “It seems to be an escalation” in a neighborhood campaign to pressure Rocklands into giving up its plans to expand next door, Snedden says. “It’s distressing. We’re not sure where this leads.”

Why the hate for Rocklands, a longtime Glover Park institution? Because some in the neighborhood wrongly hold the restaurant responsible for the likely closing of another institution, Max’s Best Homemade Ice Cream (2416 Wisconsin Ave.). This spring, the barbecue spot accepted its landlords’ offer to expand into the ice cream shop storefront starting July 1. At the time, Snedden was under the impression that Max’s Best owner Max Keshani planned to retire. But in early May, Keshani began telling friends that he had abruptly lost his lease—and that he suspected Snedden was to blame.

Snedden admits he told the landlords last year that he’d be willing to rent the storefront if it ever became available, but he had been doing that twice annually for the past 20 years. According to Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Joe Fiorillo, a confidant and strong supporter of Keshani’s, “Rocklands is squeaky clean as far as their business procedures. [Snedden is] a clean-cut guy. I just don’t think you could say that there was any kind of collusion” between Snedden and the landlords over ending Keshani’s lease. In fact, the landlords reportedly had a second tenant lined up in case the Rocklands deal fell through—a sign that they intended to end Max’s tenancy, with or without Rocklands.

Still, some of Keshani’s supporters denounce Rocklands as a “bully” and call for boycotts and demonstrations. One commenter on a “Save Max’s Best Ice Cream” Facebook page with more than 750 followers urged others to rally “thousands” for protests in front of the store, to  make Rocklands “bleed cash in response to community disgust.” With this week’s escalation of hostilities, it seems some Max’s devotees are taking these calls to heart.

But what precipitated Keshani’s current situation, Fiorillo says, was not Rocklands’ desire to expand, but a serious communication breakdown between Keshani and his landlords. According to Keshani, the property manager approached him last fall with a demand for a 33% rent increase starting July 1. (The property manager denies this, saying that Keshani was notified at that time that his lease would not be renewed.) Last October, when Keshani told Fiorillo about the expected rent increase, Fiorillo urged his friend to hire a lawyer to negotiate the matter, but that never happened, Fiorillo says. Keshani has said he told the property manager he wanted to negotiate the rent; his daughter, Neda, told the Georgetown Current that Keshani verbally accepted the rent that he claims was proposed. Either way, the property manager sent no lease documents. On April 26, Neda wrote the management firm a letter expressing the ice cream shop’s intent to exercise its option to renew the lease, Fiorillo says. But after 20 years, the lease was likely on its final renewal already, with no further option to renew. One week after Neda’s letter, the property manager gave written notice that the Max’s lease would end on June 30, and a shocked Keshani raised the alarm to friends.

After learning that Keshani was not closing Max’s voluntarily, Snedden wrote the landlords and offered to delay the start of his lease if they wanted Max’s to stay. It’s rumored that a real estate attorney who lives in Glover Park is now representing Keshani pro bono in an effort to extend his tenancy through at least November 30, but the attorney named in the rumor said that he couldn’t confirm any such role and asked that his name not be published. Many supporters have expressed a willingness to donate funds to help Keshani relocate his shop, and several local landlords have offered vacant storefronts, but Keshani says he has no interest in moving. Landlords Gail and Barbara Bassin have not responded to numerous requests for comment.

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