Mono County announced on Monday that they’d extended their lease on space within the Sierra Center Mall, pushing back the presumed move out date of March 30 to May 31. The extended lease is the result of delays with the county’s civic center project. These delays have pushed back the projected timeline, with June 1, 2020, as the new target date for full occupancy and services at the new building.
After breaking ground in April 2019, the original completion date for the project was February 2020. Various delays caused county officials to readjust their timelines throughout the process.
In terms of the offices in Sierra Center Mall, the county had previously been preparing to move out by March 31 and disperse employees and services to other available spaces in Bridgeport and Mammoth Lakes. Despite those plans, officials still remained in contact with the Sierra Center Mall landlords about the possibility of extending the lease again and the landlords ultimately agreed to do so.
The previous March 31 move-out date at the mall was in accordance with the owners’ plans to begin developing the property into a 164 room luxury hotel.
Mono County’s new lease features a rent increase of $15,000/month for the two extra months as well as a “liquidated damage clause” that saddles the county with an additional $19,000 for each day they stay past May 31. Officials are confident that this clause will not be invoked.
The county’s offices occupy much of the third floor of the building, while the first and second floors are home to a number of other businesses ranging from restaurants like Delicious Kitchen, Samurai, and La Botega to Kung Fu San Soo, Adventure Sports Outpost, and coworking office space The Fort.
While the county is guaranteed a new home at the new Civic Center and The Fort appears to have been incorporated into the hotel’s plans, the Mall’s other businesses are not. Many have received lease extensions to match the county’s, extending their residencies through May 31 but the uncertainty that comes with moving out remains an issue.
At Delicious Kitchen, Tracy Taylor told the Sheet that the owners were still looking around for new property and even considering shifting the business down to Bishop.
“There’s not a lot of viable locations for restaurants,” Taylor explained, outlining the specific needs restaurants have such as the availability of a hood system and right utility hookups. According to Taylor, an added difficult y of finding a new home for a restaurant is proximity to existing eateries, which further reduces the already small pool of options.
The Sheet asked whether or not “[the situation] is a bit fraught?”
“I don’t know what they’re gonna do, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Taylor said.
La Botega owner Marybel Castillo echoed much of what Taylor had said while noting that her restaurant plan did not include the need for extended utilities beyond water. “It’s been hard for me,” Castillo said, detailing her trials in finding a suitable space for an affordable price.
She noted that a lot of spaces were too large for her current restaurant capacity, with rent prices beyond what she could accommodate. “I just need the water, otherwise I’m going to have to leave town,” Castillo said, adding after a pause, “I’ve been here forever.”
The Sheet ran into Bluebird Imaging co-owner Aaron Horowitz as he was closing up shop. Horowitz explained that Bluebird had been in the mall for seven years, operating with a month-to-month lease.
Like Taylor and Castillo, he spoke of an interest to stay in business elsewhere but hadn’t yet found the proper location. He said that he found out about the upcoming lease termination by reading about the hotel project online.
“We knew something was gonna happen,” Horowitz said, “We just didn’t know when.”
At Adventure Sports Outpost (ASO), manager [Pork] Chop noted that with a relocation would come a downsizing and the need to “do more with less.” He explained that ASO’s current space on the first floor had been a retail space under a number of different names since the 1980’s with a through-line of commitment to family and value. “Times’a changin’”, Chop said while wondering aloud whether the hotel project would even be completed within the decade.
“We’re along for the ride,” he said, “We ain’t giving up yet.”
Tuesday, February 26, marked one of Reka Outdoors’ final days in the Mall. Behind a large stack of inventory, owner Todd Wittenbrock sat a table inside the fishing gear company’s showroom, taking stock of the situation. To the left of the entrance, a diorama evocative of Twin Lakes took up a corner of the room.
Wittenbrock told the Sheet that the space was more of a showroom/warehouse/office combination than a storefront. Wittenbrock and his team had redone the entire interior of the space with wood paneling, floors, and a custom bar along the back wall of the showroom. According to Wittenbrock, the renovations took four months of work.
He explained that Reka had intended to use the space for social events as well and have spent a significant amount of time building out the bar, whose fate, along with much of the installed paneling and fixtures, is unknown with the current move-out.
Wittenbrock expressed frustration with the notification process, noting that after signing a one-year lease in early 2019 and renovating the space, he was told that his lease would be up in two months.
He was quick to dismiss claims from the landlord that they hadn’t known about the plans to develop the mall at the time that the lease was signed.
As a result, Wittenbrock committed to leaving the space when he could as opposed to keep the lease for an extended period.
Next steps for Reka are storing inventory and building out the brand’s fishing schools but losing the showroom is bittersweet
“It’s a sad day for sure,” Wittenbrock said with a sigh.