Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bistro building owner feels burned

Sam Johnson says woman who ran restaurant has returned to France

January 29. 2014 9:37AM
By Bill O’Boyle

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WILKES-BARRE — Sam Johnson, owner of the building that housed the now-closed Southside Bistro, said Tuesday he has been left “holding the bag” and he said he is faced with seeking legal action against his former tenant.

Johnson said he put about $2.5 million into the building at South Main and Ross streets, renovating about 16 apartments before creating the restaurant space.

“I put another $200,000 to $300,000 into the restaurant area with the understanding it would be leased,” he said. “Now she has gone back to France, leaving a mess of legal and banking issues.”

Johnson said he understands people have been left with gift certificates, but he said that issue is with Isabelle Garcia, the restaurant operator who moved back to France.

“I have to sue her, and so will anybody else who she owes money to,” Johnson said. “I took a vacant, run-down building and turned into a high-end apartment complex. I was hoping the restaurant would also add to the city’s downtown in a positive way.”

The Southside Bistro is a French restaurant that opened Oct. 14 and recently closed. Johnson said he is hoping to find a new owner/operator, but with the legal and banking issues, he said he’s not sure how soon that could happen.

Johnson was clear to say he had nothing to do with the operations of the restaurant.

“This is very unfortunate,” he said. “I’ve tried to do the right thing with the apartments and getting the restaurant space ready. Now I’m faced with a lot of red tape because of her tanking it and going back to France.”

Johnson recently purchased the former Chuck Robbins Sporting Goods to create more parking for the building. He said there is a waiting list of people wanting to rent the apartments.

“She’s left a lot of victims,” Johnson said. “Customers, vendors and me. Hopefully, we can get everything resolved and reopen the restaurant.”

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