Jose Madriz says a hold Interstate Industries left in the roof of The Shanty is used by squatters to gain access to the building.
Jose Madriz says a hold Interstate Industries left in the roof of The Shanty is used by squatters to gain access to the building.

Nearly three years after purchasing The Shanty Cafe property in Lower Queen Anne, Jose Madriz says he had to start a GoFundMe account when a contractor bilked him and his family out of nearly $300,000 and left the property partially demolished.

“It started out as a very exciting thing to do here,” Madriz said. “We’re exhausted financially and just about mentally too.”

Madriz said about half of his family members have been working at their El Charro Mexican restaurant in Livermore, California, which has been open for more than 15 years. When two of his brothers moved to Seattle, he decided to open another restaurant here, he said.

“My mom and dad are also invested in this one in Seattle, as well as the one there,” Madriz said. “The one in Livermore is actually very popular. It’s a 200-seater. About half my family works there, believe it or not.”

They purchased The Shanty Cafe property for $700,000 in 2016. The old building at 350 Elliott Ave. W. had operated as a restaurant in some fashion since its construction in 1914.

Madriz said the restaurant was to be opened as El Charro at The Shanty, to honor the building’s history. The goal was to preserve as much of the building as possible while making necessary upgrades.

“You look at it now, it’s definitely a shanty,” Madriz said.

They ended up selecting Renton-based Interstate Industries, Inc. as the general contractor for the project after meeting with owner Terry Fletcher.

“He was insured and bonded when we first met the guy,” Madriz said. “His whole office was kind of decorated with a lot of different projects they were doing, and very believable and nice guy.”

An application for a construction permit was submitted to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections in October 2017. The permit was just issued this August, but by then Madriz said he’d paid Interstate Industries around $274,000.

“We gave a bunch of deposits to this guy and, of course, he disappeared,” Madriz said.

All that had been accomplished since hiring Interstate Industries was some concrete being poured and demolition work, he said, including a large hole that was put in the roof.

“The last time I communicated with him was maybe four or five months ago,” Madriz said. “He gave me the attorney excuse. ‘I can’t talk because of my attorney.’”

Interstate Industries did not renew its construction contractor license, which expired on March 28, according to the Washington Department of Labor & Industries.

L&I cited the company with two infractions in June of this year.

One was in response to a complaint filed in April that Fletcher, operating as Interstate Hood Company LLC, had taken a $12,727 down payment to install a new commercial hood and fire suppression system at the Ridge Cafe and Deli in Snoqualimie. Fletcher applied for a permit with the city under Interstate Industries, but never completed the work.

The second citation was in response to the complaint Madriz filed on March 15.

“After two years of broken promises, Jose had his accountant in California do some checking on Fletcher,” L&I compliance inspector Tim Barchenger wrote in his report. “He found out there were many complaints against him for not performing work after being paid for it. Jose contacted the architect on his job and found out they had stopped working also, because Fletcher had not paid them. Further investigation found all the work at the project had to be redone, nothing was to code.”

Not only was Interstate Industries contractor license suspended when Fletcher signed a registered contractor disclosure with the City of Seattle, according to Barchenger’s report, the business also didn’t claim Fletcher as an employee any time in the first three quarters of 2017, when work on The Shanty was paid for and performed.

“I can tell you he did more damage than good, so some of that will have to be redone,” Madriz said of the work it will take to get El Charro open.

Part of that cost is worked into the $950,000 he’s trying to raise through a GoFundMe campaign, as well as recovering the money Madriz said Interstate Industries stole from his family. The sewer line from The Shanty to the main line is also believed to be broken, and will costs between $100,000 and $150,000 to fix, he said.

This rendering shows what El Charro at The Shanty would look like if the necessary funding comes through.
Jose Madriz said he's had some offers for the property, but hopes to still be able to open a restaurant at 350 Elliott Ave. W.

Madriz said he wants to spread the word about El Charro’s funding dilemma, but he also wants to make sure no one else loses their money by hiring Fletcher.

Interstate Industries currently has multiple unresolved lawsuits against it dating as far back as 2014. The largest complaint is for $40,240 filed by Trutemp Northwest Inc in 2015, followed by a 2016 complaint for nearly $35,000 filed by Standex Food Service Equipment Group.

Madriz said an attorney he’d hired returned the money he put down for a retainer because he did not believe the restaurateur would be getting his money back from Fletcher.

A message left with Interstate Industries by Queen Anne News went unanswered.

L&I also reports multiple unpaid tax debts it has filed against Interstate Industries. Debby Abe with L&I Public Affairs tells Queen Anne News Interstate Industries owes $32,524 in unpaid workers’ compensation insurance premiums, penalties and interest from January 2016 through September 2017, $2,040 for the two citations from June, and $173 in unpaid fees for the hazardous chemical awareness program.

Abe tells Queen Anne News that matters involving Interstate Industries have been referred to the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

L&I has found Fletcher to be operating under several business names, including Interstate Construction LLC, Interstate Hood Company LLC, Interstate Construction Services, Interstate Hood Company E-Commerce LLC and Interstate LLC.

Interstate Industries president Lorne Smith filed articles of incorporation in March 2013.

That same month the Washington Court of Appeals upheld a trial court order that Fletcher provide $149,502 in restitution to the Southside Church of Christ in Seattle. Fletcher pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree theft in June 2010 for reportedly failing to complete work on a church construction project, and for the poor quality of the work that was provided through his Northwest Construction and HVAC Company.