Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita restaurant owner says he was evicted, locked out of Union Station spot

Union Station food kiosks almost ready to open

Mike Tokarz of Occidental Management offers a tour of the new food kiosks that will open in Union Station in July. Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle
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Mike Tokarz of Occidental Management offers a tour of the new food kiosks that will open in Union Station in July. Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle

It’s the end of the line for Mumbai Rail Indian Bistro.

On Friday, said owner Neil Bhakta, landlord Occidental Management evicted the business without notice from the old train depot building at Union Station, 711 E. Douglas, where the restaurant has been struggling to survive since it first opened in April 2016.

Bhakta said he was three months behind on his rent and had been struggling with the construction on Douglas and the low visibility of the restaurant.

“The rent amount was always going to be out of reach for us,” Bhakta said. “We put so much capital into the building in renovations and utilities. In the end, we didn’t have control over many things. Very painful lesson.”

Occidental Management did not return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

Bhakta said he is going to continue to operate his Smoothie King, which is in the adjoining space in the train depot. It is up-to-date on its rent, he said.

Bhakta, who owns four other Smoothie Kings around town, said he would be offering his misplaced workers from Mumbai Rail jobs at his other stores.

Mumbai Rail was one of the renovated Union Station’s first tenants. It first opened its doors in late April 2016.

The restaurant closed for a week almost immediately after opening for retooling, then in April 2017, Bhakta said it would close again for several months for another retooling and so that construction could be completed on an upstairs portion of the restaurant. It reopened in June 2017 but without food service. Bhakta and his new manager Mikel Bowyer said they planned to turn the space into a cocktail lounge open only in the evenings. It would not serve lunch or dinner but would do catering.

That lasted for a while, then Bowyer quietly started offering lunch again, Bhakta said. But that ended in mid-November. Bhakta reopened again in February, saying he was ready to devote his full attention to the restaurant. He had just completed construction on the upstairs part of the venue, which he’d planned to turn into a business called Mead Street Venue.

“We drained over half a million in improvements over here,” he said. “It’s five years of my life gone. I have loved the Rock Island Depot building my whole life, and it was fun to put the infrastructure into the place to make it come alive.”

The new area will have drive-through coffee, late-night Indian food and lots of outdoor seating.

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