After 42 years in business, The Girls Restaurant in Arroyo Grande is closing at month’s end, citing a huge rent increase as the key reason.
Owners Scott and Cindy Harrigan said they tried to negotiate with the property manager, who nearly tripled their rent as part of a remodel of the shopping center at East Grand Avenue and South Elm Street.
They considered moving from their current 4,600-square-foot building at 1237 East Grand Ave. to another building in the shopping center, but were unable to reach an agreement, they said.They also looked at other locations for the restaurant, however couldn’t find a building large enough, and outfitted for a restaurant, on short notice.
When property manager Phil Fontes and partners bought the shopping center four years ago, they didn’t make any changes.
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In late May Fontes notified The Girls Restaurant that the rent would increase in October; because of improvements at the shopping center, the restaurant would have been closed in September due to a remodel.
Repeated calls to the property manager in recent days were not returned.
The rent would have increased to $3 a square foot, from around $1.18 a square foot; in addition, rent for the common area would have increased to 36 cents per square foot from 20 cents, said Cindy Harrigan.
The Harrigans began working at the restaurant in 1974 shortly after it opened. Cindy Harrigan worked as a bus girl, Scott Harrigan as a dishwasher, according to Tribune archives. They bought the restaurant in 1993, after changes in the parent company closed it for six months.
Over the years, the Harrigans’ children have spent their time working at the restaurant; their son, Ryan, and his wife, Jennifer, are currently managers. They employ 12 people.
“We really appreciate all of our employees that have worked for us. They’ve been here forever,” said Cindy Harrigan.
Business at the restaurant has been consistent, despite construction on the front parking lot making access to the building difficult, she said. Regulars make up the majority of The Girls Restaurant clientele, many of whom were upset by the news of its impending closure.
The Harrigans said they will try to use their inventory as much as possible and donate the remaining food to local food banks.