Friday, April 20 , 2018, 11:04 am | Fair 61º


Local News

Property Manager Fires Back at Deano’s Pizzarama Claim

Investec says it's willing to negotiate a lease reinstatement but denies rent has doubled

The Deano’s on the Internet and the actual pizzeria on the Mesa couldn’t look more different these days.

Throngs of people flooded the restaurant over the weekend, creating up to an hour-long wait for seats at dinner time. Meanwhile, fans were lamenting the apparent demise of the decades-old eatery on the Facebook wall of a group called “Help Save Dean-o’s in Santa Barbara!”

So which is it? Is the Mesa Shopping Center, 1950 Cliff Drive, one step closer to life without Deano’s? Or can a happy medium be reached?

Turns out, neither side knows, because they aren’t talking.

The Deano’s team contends that rent increases are driving out the restaurant and that the company that manages the shopping center, Investec, won’t compromise.

Investec officials have a different story, however.

Bill Brace, Investec management vice president, said Tuesday that the company has put the ball in Deano’s owner Lou Torres’ court and is waiting to hear from Torres’ attorneys on what they’ve decided to do.

“Investec supports local business because it is our business,” Investec had said in a previous statement. The real estate investment firm was founded in Santa Barbara in 1983.

Brace took issue with the reported rent increases, which were said to have doubled since Torres took ownership in 2004.

Occupancy costs did increase as a result of the recent remodeling of the shopping center, but Brace said the business had only seen a 20 percent increase in its lease rates in five years.

“To say that the rent has doubled since his tenure is a false statement,” Brace told Noozhawk.

Brace couldn’t say how much Deano’s owes in rent per month and he declined to discuss how far behind the owner is on the current lease. But he did say that other businesses in the shopping center had benefited from the renovation.

“The gross sales for other tenants have gone up after the construction versus before the construction,” he said. “They’re doing good.”

Brace said he first learned the restaurant might have to close down when he discovered the “Save Dean-o’s” Facebook page, and not by hearing it from the owner.

“Communication, or lack thereof, was a part of the issue of how it got so far along,” he said. Now the two parties are talking through their attorneys, according to Brace.

“We have the ability to basically take possession of the premises, but we don’t want to enforce that right if we can come to terms,” he said.

If Deano’s pays its backrent, he said, Investec is willing to reinstate the lease.

“A lot of people have been talking to him and have offered to help,” Brace said. “This may all turn out OK.”

Or maybe not. Deano’s general manager Rudi Huntelmann told Noozhawk on Tuesday that employees were informed last Sunday that the restaurant would only be open for another week. This Sunday is the day the doors will close for good, he said.

When asked how business had been the past week, Huntelmann said things were extremely busy. Huntelmann, who has been at Deano’s for 18 years, said the entire staff is looking for new work. Before the remodel, he said, everything had been fine.

“The remodel slowed down business for everybody, including Fosters Freeze and Mesa Cafe,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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