Update: Jumpin’ Jax House of Food completes rent settlement with $5,000 payment

Howland “Howdy” Russell closed the Downtown restaurant March 30 where he leased space from the college.

  • By Dan Macdonald
  • | 12:00 a.m. April 3, 2024
  • | Updated 10:27 a.m. April 3, 2024
  • | 4 Free Articles Remaining!
The Jumpin’ Jax House of Food at 20 W. Adams St. Downtown closed March 30.
The Jumpin’ Jax House of Food at 20 W. Adams St. Downtown closed March 30.
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Howland “Howdy” Russell, owner of the former Jumpin’ Jax House of Food at 20 W. Adams St., paid Florida State College at Jacksonville the required sum of $5,000 in a rent settlement.

The check cleared April 2.

The Daily Record reported early April 3 that Russell still owed the school, which owns the building, the $5,000 settlement for back rent as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy agreement filed in July 2023.

Russell told the Daily Record he is expecting a six-figure COVID Employee Retention Tax Credit disbursement payment from the IRS.

He said he has worked with U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean’s office and the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service.

“They have confirmed that we are simply waiting on the IRS (to) send the checks,” he said March 30.

In documentation Russell provided April 3, payroll company CoAdvantage of Bradenton had submitted three ERTC claims for Russell. The Jan. 5 document from CoAdvantage states Russell has submitted claims to the IRS totaling $248,602.63. As of April 2, CoAdvantage had not received the money from the IRS for Russell’s account.

Howland “Howdy” Russell said March 30 he closed the Downtown Jumpin’ Jax House of Food at 20 W. Adams St. and intends to reopen “ASAP” at another location.
Special to the Daily Record

Russell shared a text from Brian Elliott, CoAdvantage national director of onboarding, that read: “We have received a few ERTC for our clients recently (the first we have received since August 2023) but of course none of them were yours.”

In email conversations April 2, FSCJ Chief Communications Officer Jill Johnson said she had not been made aware that Russell had paid and the school cashed the $5,000 check. 

However, checking with the college budget office April 3 the check was received the afternoon of April 2.

Russell voluntarily petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection July 5, 2023.

The settlement states that if Russell is found to be in default of the agreement, he is liable for “all sums due, fees and damages under the lease.”

It also required Russell to leave the property by March 31 if in default. He closed the Downtown restaurant March 30.

The college built-out the space as the 20West Cafe training restaurant and then operated it from April 2018 to June 2019. It closed because it wasn’t performing financially.

Russell opened his fast-casual restaurant Jan. 6, 2020. It specialized in lunches serving burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken, pizza, salads, wraps and sides.

The lease with FSCJ called for rent increases over time. Per the lease, from November 2019–April 2020 Russell was not charged rent.

From May-July 2020, Russell was to pay $2,500 and from August 2020 to present he was to pay whichever was higher: $2,500 or 8% of the prior month’s gross sales, Johnson said.

“The College has corresponded with Mr. Russell throughout the terms of the lease including agreeing to a renewal of the lease with a repayment plan, which the Tenant defaulted. The College recently worked with Mr. Russell and his counsel to reach a settlement agreement,” Johnson wrote.

Russell had other Jumpin’ Jax House of Food locations. The restaurant at 1021 Atlantic Blvd. in Atlantic Beach closed in 2021. He closed the location at 10131 San Jose Blvd. in Mandarin in 2022. 

Russell now operates Jumpin’ Jax House of Food Belfort at 4887 Belfort Road.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, customers often prefer to eat restaurant fare at home, Russell said in a 2022 interview.

“If you are going to make it as a restaurant, you either have to have a full liquor license or a drive-thru,” he said.

Having closed the West Adams Street location, Russell said he is looking for another Downtown space or space in the Gateway Jax area of the North Core. He’d like it to be about 2,700 square feet – half the size of the Adams Street restaurant.

He is in talks with other property owners. No contracts have been signed. Russell would like to make the move as soon as possible and expects the 10 employees to move to the new restaurant.

He said depending on demand, the new restaurant hours will be 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

The college has not decided what to do with the restaurant, Johnson said.

Note: This story has been updated with new information from FSCJ and Russell.

Editor at Large Karen Brune Mathis contributed to this report.



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