Eastbluff's Sage to close

Sage Restaurant will close at the end of the year if it cannot reach a lease extension agreement with its landlord, chef Rich Mead confirmed Wednesday.

Mead asks customers to email the Irvine Co., which owns the Eastbluff Shopping Center that houses the restaurant, to support Sage, according to a letter he wrote and posted on the restaurant's website earlier this month.

The Irvine Co. could not be reached for comment.

"It's their ball, and it's in their court," Mead said. "I'm not trying to make anyone mad. I'm just hoping they understand the way people feel about the restaurant."

Sage, in the corner of the shopping center off Jamboree Road, opened almost 15 years ago and did well until the recession, Mead said.

However, after several years in the red, the eatery, which boats cuisine crafted from locally grown produce, is finally staging a comeback, he said.

In a email to a Sage supporter, which was forwarded to the Daily Pilot, Irvine Co. Vice President of Community Affairs Robin Leftwich said that a new tenant would be replacing Sage after the lease expiration in December.

"The Irvine Co. has worked closely with the ownership of Sage and Sage on the Coast, through the ups and downs of the economy for many years," Leftwich wrote. "The restaurant business is one of evolution and change. As a company, we work hard to ensure that the mix between eating establishments and other tenants in our centers creates a synergy that results in a thriving destination for shoppers and diners."

Leftwich concluded the letter by citing $3.4 million, which was put into renovations for the center.

While Mead said he'd like to reopen Sage in a new location, he doesn't have any plans yet.

Sage on the Coast, the sister-concept in Crystal Cove, closed in 2010.

"It's just been fun, and whatever happens, happens," Mead said. "Hopefully, I can put something together and find another space, but it'll never be that space in Eastbluff."

The Irvine Co. first notified Mead that the lease would not be renewed about a year-and-a-half ago, he said.

Since then, he has tried to get the real estate and development company to reconsider.

A five-year lease extension would give the restaurant time to recoup its losses and consider upgrades, he said.

"The only thing I have going for me against them is my customers and the relationship that was built over the years," Mead said. "That's why I sent out the email."


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