Now pressure is being brought to bare on restaurateurs Peggy and Dan Mazella by their landlord to force them to change back – or else.
On July 19, the Mazellas received a letter from an attorney representing their landlord, Promenade Mall Development Corp. It read, “You are in violation of the lease in that you are not operating under the name Tony Roma's and instead are operating under the name Beachtown BBQ. … Within 10 business days, you are required to cure the violation by removing the 'Beachtown BBQ' signage from the premises, restoring the 'Tony Roma's' signage and operating under that name … or quitting the premises and delivering up possession of the premises.”
“I believe he (landlord) is reading our lease out of context,” said Mazella, noting, “He never signed our lease back in 1986.”
Mazella said the original developer drafted the lease and signed it with his father in law.
“We are simply trying to run a local restaurant servicing our neighbors in a most hospitable way,” said Mazella, adding, “If neighbors prefer we switch back to Tony Roma's – I would like to know that. Likewise, if neighbors prefer we continue as Beachtown BBQ and Grill – I would like to know that too.”
Speculation is growing that market forces along the beachfront, in effect for some time, are making the business environment so competitive for restaurants that many are converting or selling to more profitable beach bar-oriented establishments.
“I've been told I'm leaving lots of money on the table,” said Mazella of opting to remain a restaurant rather than a bar.
Discussing why he broke away from Tony Roma's, Mazella said, “We were just going in a different direction. I liked Tony Roma's. They're nice guys. But they have a business model that was not really keeping up, and they've been losing locations in California for several years. We had a harmonious relationship. It was just better for us to move on.”
The alleged link between beach bars and alcohol-related crime in Pacific Beach has become a hot-button topic once again. Some PB residents, who've been pushing for years for more local control over alcohol licenses, their issuance and terms, claim PB is falling prey to the cannibalization and predatory practices of some property owners collecting liquor licenses and leveraging them out, selling to more profitable enterprises than are there currently.
“Everyone knows that a bar is a whole lot more profitable than a restaurant,” said Mazella. “We are just one more chapter of a book being written.”
An attorney as well as a restaurateur and board director on Discover PB, the community's Business Improvement District, Mazella and his landlord have been involved in an ongoing lawsuit involving alleged culpability over a leaky grease interceptor onsite.
The owner of Promenade Mall Development Corp. was out of town and could not be reached for comment by Beach & Bay Press before press time for this story.