Owner Fights To Keep Eatery

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Courts: Fate of Central Avenue Grill rests in the hands of bankruptcy judge

By Carol A. Clark

Central Avenue Grill owner Min Sung Park had few alternatives left when he declared bankruptcy Aug. 12 in United States Federal Court in Albuquerque.


Park has operated Central Avenue Grill, 1789 Central Ave., as well as his Osaka Grill and Seafood restaurant, 3501 Zafarano Dr., in Santa Fe under “debtor-in-possession” status since filing for Chapter 11 reorganization.

Park’s attorney, George Moore said Thursday that Central Avenue Grill “will certainly remain open through December.”

All holiday parties already booked at the restaurant will be honored, Park said.

In the most recent bankruptcy proceedings Tuesday, Judge Robert Jacobvitz granted Park, his wife and co-debtor, Sohyank (Monica) Park, time to reorganize their finances. Whether the husband and wife team are able to continue operating the eatery hinges on the question of the validity of their lease on the Central Avenue Grill location.

Park explained that while his other restaurant ventures – located in Santa Fe – have seemingly flourished, due to the ups and downs in the Los Alamos economy over the last few years, he occasionally fell behind on his lease payments, which technically put The Grill in default on its lease obligations. However, Park said he was always able to get the rent caught up, and the landlord didn’t press the matter until last summer.

The Central Avenue Grill landlord informed Park in August that he no longer had a lease, indicating that Park needed to vacate the 4,800 square-foot space. Park said he filed bankruptcy to stop the eviction and to give him time to fight the action in court.

The judge is expected to render a decision Jan. 13 regarding the lease dispute. If he rules that the Parks still have a lease on the property, Park said he’ll continue to operate the restaurant. He’ll have to vacate the premises after the January hearing should the judge rule in the landlord’s favor.

“When we purchased Central Avenue Grill in 2005, we had a vision of creating a community gathering place … room for dancing, celebrating … the heart of the community,” Park said Thursday evening. “I’ve never lost sight of that vision and intend to fight to keep Central Avenue Grill operating for the community.”

Since acquiring Central Avenue Grill from Denise and Mike Lane, the Parks have routinely hosted charitable events that have encompassed donating a percentage of an evening’s meals to the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, Friday night dances for area youth, and the annual Red and Black Ball fundraiser for the Family YMCA, along with a host of other community events.

Court records indicate that as the Parks have worked to build their restaurant business, they’ve also racked up a list of creditors including $900,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, $220,000 to the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, $200,000 to Sara Oaks of Santa Fe, $150,000 to Hans Wolf and Martine Wolf of Santa Fe and $50,000 to C1C2 Investments of Daytona Beach, Fla. — landlord for the $8,500 a month Central Avenue Grill, which is located in the heart of downtown.

The lease for his Osaka restaurant property runs $14,000 a month, according to court documents.

The bankruptcy filing also shows that the Parks owe money to a number of banks including $301,745 to Los Alamos National Bank, which is listed as a major secured creditor. The couple also owes $17,814 to Bank of America, $12,454 to Chase Bank USA and $7,152 to Capital One, among other creditors.

Park grew up in South Korea and has lived in the U.S. since graduate school, he said. Park has maintained his day job where he works in a non-secured area in the Bioscience Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, at a salary of approximately $120,000 annually, according to his “Statement of Financial Affairs” filed with the court Oct. 6.

In his voluntary petition to the court, Park estimated that there would be no funds available for distribution to unsecured creditors.

Patrick Mockler-Wood of Los Alamos went into business with the Parks last May and said that he stands to lose “a substantial sum of money,” adding that he is working with an attorney and is contemplating filing criminal charges against the Parks.

“They took my money and they spent my money and they never transferred 50 percent ownership in Central Avenue Grill to me as agreed upon,” Mockler said.

Mockler’s attorney, Cullen Hallmark said he and his client have filed a claim in Bankruptcy Court against the Parks and that if charges were to be filed, the authorities would do the filing.

“Mr. Mockler invested a lot of money in this project and if there is an investigation that finds Mr. Park did something illegal, that would be the authorities call, and we would work with the authorities,” Hallmark said. “All of our claims directly against Mr. Park have to be made in Bankruptcy Court and that’s what we’re doing.”

Park said that he and Mockler did sign documents, but due to the lease situation the new partner could not be added to the liquor license. The two planned to add a Tap Room at Central Avenue Grill, which was a key component of their plans to broaden the restaurant’s appeal.

no surprise

Unfortunately, this is comes at no surprise to us. We have quit eating at the Central Avenue Grill after being treated very poorly, high prices, and poor service in general. We are not alone. See what other people wrote abut the Grill: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60730-d832442-Reviews-Cent...


This will be a tremendous loss to our community. Central Ave Grill has been a downtown anchor, bringing diners to shop the surrounding businesses. We wish the Parks well.