Atta Amin of Arlington, Va., battles landlord over mural on smoke shop

10:00 PM, Sep 4, 2012   |    comments
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ARLINGTON, Va (WUSA) -- Afghan refugee Atta Amin has struggled for years to make a living as a small businessman in America. Now he's in a new fight with his Arlington landlord -- over art.

In an eclectic block of South 23rd Street, a battle rages over a mural painted on the side of Amin's smoke shop. You can hear it in the voices of people walking by: "Yeah, it's interesting. I'm an artist myself." "I wouldn't want that mural on my business." "I think it's pretty. I like the colors." "I just think it doesn't fit in this neighborhood."

Amin says he spent months fixing up the building, which he says had been vacant for years. Inside he's hired young people to sell hookahs and Afghan jewelry. "Provide more job, more opportunity," says Amin. "Live that wonderful American dream."

The landlord was happy when he cleaned up the outside and installed planters -- But furious when he hired a couple of couple of itinerant artists to put something catchy on the front wall. "Take it down. Wash it away," Amin says the landlord told him.

In a letter, the lawyer for the landlord says the lease is pretty clear on this. No signs on the outside without prior approval. He also says Amin owes him back rent.

"I immigrated here. Don't always understand so much," Amin says.  He says he's trying to do the right thing. The central character in the mural is now smoking a whale instead of cigar, because the county complained that was advertising.

Amin says he's spent a small fortune on the shop. "I've invested here. My hard work, money." And now he fears he'll lose business brought in by the mural, and the work of art.

We tried to get a hold of Amin's landlord for an interview, but we have yet to hear back.

Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan
9News Now & wusa9.com
Twitter: @BruceLeshan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an eclectic block of South 23rd Street, a battle rages over a mural painted on the side of Amin's smoke shop. You can hear it in the voices of people walking by: "Yeah, it's interesting. I'm an artist myself." "I wouldn't want that mural on my business." "I think it's pretty. I like the colors." "I just think it doesn't fit in this neighborhood."Amin says he spent months fixing up the building, which he says had been vacant for years. Inside he's hired young people to sell hookahs and Afghan jewelry. "Provide more job, more opportunity," says Amin. "Live that wonderful American dream."The landlord was happy when he cleaned up the outside and installed planters -- But furious when he hired a couple of couple of itinerant artists to put something catchy on the front wall. "Take it down. Wash it away," Amin says the landlord told him.In a letter, the lawyer for the landlord says the lease is pretty clear on this. No signs on the outside without prior approval. He also says Amin owes him back rent. "I immigrated here. Don't always understand so much," Amin says.  He says he's trying to do the right thing. The central character in the mural is now smoking a whale instead of cigar, because the county complained that was advertising. Amin says he's spent a small fortune on the shop. "I've invested here. My hard work, money." And now he fears he'll lose business brought in by the mural, and the work of art.We tried to get a hold of Amin's landlord for an interview, but we have yet to hear back.Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan

 

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