The imminent closure of Junior's Deli, a longtime Jewish eatery on the Westside, was the result of inexperienced ownership that exacerbated a rent dispute, according to the business' landlord.
For decades, Beverly Hills-based Four Corners Investment Co. has leased the Westwood Boulevard property to Junior's, said the firm's attorney, Behzad Nahai. The company "always had an excellent business relationship with Marvin Saul," who launched the deli in 1959, Nahai said.
But Saul died last year after a heart attack, passing control of Junior's to his sons David and John. The restaurant-bakery-catering business will close by the end of the year.
Earlier this week, David Saul blamed Four Corners for trying to raise rent and "not willing to bend" on "a number that we can't give." Rising food costs and changing clientele have pressured the business, he said.
Nahai sees the situation differently.
Four Corners had granted the Sauls several rent concessions during the recession, allowing for lower rent even after Marvin Saul's death "in an effort to help the brothers turn their business around," he said.
When it came time to renew the lease this year, Four Corners said the concessions weren't sustainable going forward but offered a revised rental amount "still less than the Sauls were contractually obligated to pay," Nahai said.
The attorney said negotiations ground to a halt after the brothers made a "well-below market proposal" lower than their father's rate.
"The closure is a result of the brothers not having the same level of business acumen as their father," Nahai said. "They've been unable to run the restaurant successfully."
The Sauls have not paid rent since mid-November, Nahai said. David Saul said he held back the rent "for negotiating purposes" and that the lease for December "was prepaid."
He also said Nahai's description of the brothers as inexperienced business owners is "totally unfounded."
Four Corners, which also owns several nearby properties, said it will regain possession of the Junior's property by the end of next month and then start to market it to new lease applicants.
Longtime diners in Los Angeles and beyond were rattled by the news.
"It's like taking away something from your childhood that you assume will still be there and that you can always come back to," wrote customer and Los Feliz resident Greg Diamond in an email.
He reminisced about "memories dating back two decades," including birthday cakes from Junior's bakery, meals with his Brooklyn-based father, even "getting into a physical altercation with another Junior's patron over getting a table on a crowded Sunday morning."