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."
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.
With her political future in jeopardy, Sen. Mary Landrieu is turning to a natural constituent base in her re-election bid.
Terrance Broadway threw for a touchdown and rushed for 113 yards to lead Louisiana-Lafayette to a 34-10 victory over Texas State on Tuesday night.