By Kevin Hogencamp
Lajuana Woods faces numerous court liens, is three months behind on a federal $100,000 loan, and has lost money every day of 2011 because her business has been closed since Dec. 30
But Woods says she is optimistic that after renovations are complete, perhaps by Super Bowl Sunday in early February, that L’ Jua’s restaurant and lounge on Radium Springs Road will transform into a primary destination for music lovers and fun seekers.
“I’ve seen what’s working and not working … and have gotten a lot of customer feedback – a lot of feedback,” Woods said.
The result, Woods said, will be a transition from a primarily fine-dining establishment to a more casual restaurant that features live entertainment, touring comedy shows and large-projection televisions for sports fans.
Specifically, dining space is being replaced so that accommodations can be made for band performances and touring comedy shows.
In an interview, Woods would not answer questions about her debt, which includes liens and other delinquencies, or other business interests she has, except to say, “I cannot let it bother me when I am managing finances not just at L’ Jua’s but of several businesses. In this economy, this is difficult for most small businesses until things get better for all.”
She says, though, that it seems that all of Albany is watching her.
“I’m a very low key person …. for whatever reason this town is interested in what goes on at that spot, she said.
She says that in addition to hosting quality bands and hosting the only regular comedy night in town, L’ Jua’s will continue with a college theme on Wednesdays. There’s more in store, she said, but, “I just don’t want to spill my beans right now.”
Woods is a recent Michigan transplant who gained notoriety when she made a $2,500 campaign contribution to City Commissioner Tommie Postell shortly before the commission appointed Woods to the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority (ADICA) and changed its alcohol license proximity rules to accommodate L’ Jua’s, which is directly across Radium Springs Road from Albany State University. Instead of measuring the distance between a school and an on-premises alcohol establishment as a crow flies, the commission changed its laws – after breaking its law in the case of Club Fahrenheit, which never opened – to enable Woods to obtain a license.
Woods won’t answer questions about the license issue or about receiving a $50,000 grant from ADICA through City Manager Alfred Lott and then-Director Don Buie, who was subsequently convicted of public corruption charges. After the grant was publicly revealed, Woods struck a deal with District Attorney Greg Edwards to repay the $50,000, without interest, by August 2010 in exchange for immunity from prosecution. She made scheduled payments monthly and has cleared the debt.
Among her outstanding debts, according to public records:
- Woods was ordered by a state court judge in June 2010 to repay $8,745 to her food supplier, Performance Food Group.
- Woods is $821 in arrears for 2009 Dougherty County taxes, which she said Tuesday that she wasn’t aware of.
- Woods is $2,024 in arrears on a $100,000 federal loan that she obtained through Albany Community Together. Her monthly payments are $937; she still owes $93,275.
Woods received a $50,000 check in 2009 under the pretense that it was a “grant” for façade improvements; however, her restaurant is outside the boundaries of the grant program, which had a grant award limit of $5,000. Woods’ pact with Buie was revealed after reporters uncovered that Buie schemed to give Dollar Square owner Tim Washington taxpayer funds and free rent, and that Lott was covering the pact up by not responding to public records requests.
Woods was not charged with theft, then-Assistant District Attorney Chris Cohilas said, because Buie’s authority wasn’t specifically defined by his boss, Alfred Lott, who was ultimately responsible for the funds. Lott also was not charged; instead, he testified against Buie during Buie’s trial.