The store front Bella Figura abandoned has generated a lot of interest in the past few months, according to Tex Plumley, who owns the Centre Park shopping center with Dr. Andrew Harwood. Potential tenants included Carmelo Ristorante, an Italian eatery on the corner of Decatur and Toulouse streets in New Orleans. But Carmelo could not move as quickly as the Todaros, says Plumley, who was anxious to find a replacement for Ainsworth's Bella Figura. Ainsworth's departure from the spot violated the lease agreement, prompting Plumley and his partner to consider legal action. Plumley says Ainsworth has thus far been able to avoid a lawsuit to uphold the lease because the Todaros are moving in. The space has been vacant since Bella Figura moved out, despite a stipulation in the lease that prevented it from going dark.
Additionally, Bella Figura still has more than two years on the lease. The rent is being paid, Plumley says, and as part of the negotiations, Ainsworth will guarantee it through its duration. "Jack stays involved from the standpoint that he still has 28 months on his lease."
Ainsworth says he's had every intention of fulfilling the terms of his lease but acknowledges overlooking the stipulation preventing him from leaving the space vacant. "My first words out of my mouth were, 'Tex, I'm going to honor the terms of my lease,' [but] I wasn't aware of the dark clause," the restaurateur says.
The loss of Bella Figura was exacerbated by Ainsworth's initial plans to expand into a space Centre Park's owners freed up specifically for him. Ainsworth had long wanted to expand his Italian eatery, Plumley says, and in December verbally committed to take over more space when a tenant, Kids Krop Shop, wanted out of its lease. Plumley let the salon owner out of her lease two years early without paying any penalties. "I was definitely surprised he was leaving," says Plumley, who didn't find out until early January ' when he sent the lease agreement for the additional space to Ainsworth ' that Bella Figura would be heading to the City Club.
Earlier this year, Ainsworth told The Independent Weekly he had been in talks with City Club officials since last summer ("Moody family out, Bella Figura in," Jan. 10). The restaurateur now explains that negotiations with the City Club had fallen apart in December when he agreed to take the additional space on Kaliste Saloom Road. "I turned that [initial City Club] deal down and was going to stay where I was," Ainsworth says. "Robert Daigle [River Ranch's developer and a co-owner of City Club] came back with a different structure of a deal that basically was just too good to turn down." Ainsworth says he notified Plumley within a couple of weeks of accepting Daigle's offer.
The touchy situation between the center's owners and Ainsworth was massaged a bit recently, when a local hair stylist committed to opening a full-service salon, Juuj Coiffure, in the old Kids Krop Shop location. The new hair salon, which caters to both children and adults, will soon join existing Centre Park tenants CC's Coffeehouse, Eros, Harrison Paint, Europe Spa, Planet Beach tanning salon, Initials, Avenues to Travel (Ainsworth's wife's travel agency) and TCBY, (Plumley's wife's business that has just been completely renovated to a more contemporary design).
The Todaros have worked out a deal to purchase the equipment Bella Figura left behind and aren't planning any major renovation of the space, according to Gene Jr. "The place is beautiful already," he says, "so the changes will be minor."
The Todaros have been operating their retail wine shop in Lafayette since 1980, when they started in La Promenade mall. Marcello's Wine Market and Deli, which will offer a large selection of wines (along with regular wine tastings), liquor, and imported and micro-brewed beer, should be open within three months. The deli portion will bring back several popular menu items that the family once offered at its Time Plaza Italian restaurant and wine bar, Marcello's, which Gene Jr. says closed in the late 1980s. The deli will also have a variety of cheeses, salamis, and other cured meats, as well as cold and hot sandwiches.
Gene Jr. lives in Baton Rouge, and his father lives in Lafayette. They sold their smaller Baton Rouge wine shop after Hurricane Katrina to focus their efforts in Lafayette. "We're concentrating on Lafayette," the younger Todaro says, "and we're looking for more locations in north Louisiana and central Louisiana."
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Google vs. Amazon in drone race; more deaths in Syria; Russia escalates Ukraine conflict and more national and international news for Friday, August 29, 2014.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.