Popular bistro closes
Property owner, restaurateur disagree on reasons
Lisa B's, a popular restaurant located in the old Danville Hotel on Hartz Avenue, closed its doors for good last Thursday for reasons that are still being disputed.
Owner Lisa Burton said Castle Companies, which owns the downtown Danville property, pressured her out of the location in order to make more money leasing to a monthly tenant.
"They strong-armed me out of there. It's all about making money to them, they don't care about what the community wants," Burton said.
But Thomas Baldacci, who owns the property through Castle Companies, said the restaurant will close because Burton didn't pay rent for the last eight months.
"She was $25,000 in arrears," Baldacci said.
Discrepancy over how much rent was owed arose between Burton and Castle Companies this summer when the bistro was closed temporarily due to burst pipes. Burton blamed Castle Companies for shutting the restaurant down and killing her customer base.
"My attorney advised me not to pay rent during that time period, for the loss of goodwill. I lost my customer base," Burton said.
An insurance company paid Burton for rent during the time the bistro was closed but Castle Companies never saw that money, Baldacci said. Burton said her insurance company had nothing to do with the situation.
"They were unwilling to negotiate with me. They don't care about small businesses," she said.
Burton said the company had been trying to get her out of that space for months. As the date for remodeling the old Danville Hotel approaches, she said Baldacci and the Town of Danville hope to put big name tenants where Lisa B's, a Bistro, once stood.
"It's intentional, they have their own plans for that space," she said.
She believes that Castle Companies hopes to bring a pricey upscale restaurant with specialty wines to the location.
"They are trying to make it like Walnut Creek, but Danville people don't want that," she said.
Baldacci, along with members of the Danville Planning Commission, did say they hope to bring in new tenants to increase revenue for the town. But Baldacci said he is just looking for a reliable restaurant tenant that would serve the same purpose as Lisa B's.
Castle Companies currently has no intention of changing the venue to fine dining or to raise the rent significantly, he said.
"We're looking for a similar lunch cafe. It fits well as a restaurant," he said.
Although Burton says she has a strong case against Castle Companies, she doesn't plan to take them to court. It's too much time and effort and she has children to tend to, she said. Castle Companies, on the other hand, plans to sue her for the rent, Baldacci said.
The most disheartening thing, Burton said, is that "whoever has the most money wins."
Recently the Town of Danville sent Burton several letters indicating restrictions on seating and land use of that location. Burton said she believed town officials were in cahoots with Castle Companies to pressure her out of the spot in an effort to bring in more revenue for the town.
"It's been one thing after another," she said.
Danville Chief of Planning Kevin Gailey said Burton hadn't responded in more than three years to the town's request to limit the amount of seats outside. He said the Planning Commission had been considering revoking her outdoor seating. Every restaurant in Danville must follow the same seating regulations, he added.
"Anyone who cheats on outdoor seating cheats on parking. We have to keep the playing field level," Gailey said.
Despite a complicated year, Burton said she is looking forward to retiring and spending more time with her kids, and will miss her customers and their support.