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Former Cocotte Chef and Bartender Forced to Put Ballena Plans on the Back Burner

Thanks to landlord issues, Zoe and Levi Hackett won't be opening their Baja-inspired Mexican joint any time soon.

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Although Ballena just landed on The Oregonian's Diner 2015 round-up of restaurants they can't wait to try, they're going to have to wait quite a bit longer.

The Baja-inspired Mexican joint that former Cocotte chef Zoe Hackett and her husband, bar manager Levi Hackett, planned to open this summer at 7901 NE Glisan hit a major snag over the spring. When we checked in with them in late May, Zoe explained their build-out uncovered a host of major building repair issues that the landlord refused to fix, so they were forced to abandon their plans and regroup.

"We are not going to be able to operate our concept in that location," she wrote via an email on May 21. She said they are recovering from the financial loss before attempting to pursue opening Ballena in a new location.

Zoe is currently training as a bakery manager at Sweedeedee and continues to offer catering through her company Coco Catering, while Levi is creating an as-yet-unnamed line of wooden bar and kitchen products. "He is still experimenting with his different product ideas and types of wood to focus on," she says. "It's just a passion of his that developed while working in good bars and restaurants. We have been collecting wares for years so we are playing around with the idea of curating an online storefront."

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