Escrow is expected to close within a month or so on The Black Cat Bistro, which for more than 12 years has been owned and operated by Chef Deborah Scarborough.
With a “wonderful new opportunity” before her — which Scarborough declined to discuss Tuesday — she opened escrow Jan. 9 on a bulk sale of the business and transfer of the alcoholic-beverage license to husband and wife Mauricio Lopez and Sarah Verlangieri of San Simeon. His sister Sandra Lopez and her husband, Joel Magana, also of San Simeon, are to be part of the new venture.
Mauricio Lopez said they’d agreed to keep the sale price confidential, but a legal notice in The San Luis Obispo Tribune stated that “the amount of the purchase price or consideration in connection with the transfer of the license and business, including the estimated inventory, is the sum of $75,000.”
Scarborough said Tuesday that after so many years and so many friends, making the commitment to sell was difficult.
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“There were many sieges of tears,” during the decision-making process, “because this is such a supportive community of wonderful people.”
“I obviously hadn’t planned on doing this,” she said with a laugh. She spent the second week in December repainting the restaurant’s interior and “refinished the floors myself, on my hands and knees, which was a really brutal experience.”
But then opportunity knocked. Her new venture is “a really cool project that I’ve been very interested in doing … I figured I’d better follow my life’s path.”
Scarborough said she’d received several offers on the business, one of which was actually for more money, but she followed her heart and selected the buyers she thought had the best chance of success and who would be the best for the bistro and the community.
She said the prospective owners plan to keep the current staff, including sous chef David Castillo, “who’s been here for 11 years and knows everything about the place.”
The two young couples have quite a history in Cambria.
Mauricio Lopez said he’s worked at Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill for years, working his way up from dishwasher to head cook. Verlangieri worked there, too, as a server for about four years, “and that’s where we met,” Lopez said Tuesday.
He said Magana has 12 years of experience in restaurant kitchens, and was head cook at the Cambria Pines Lodge.
Mauricio Lopez and Verlangieri, who have a 2-year-old daughter, became entrepreneurs a few years ago when they started the French Country Bakery and Bistro in Atascadero, but found the commute was rough.
“I was working then about 10 hours a day, six days a week,” Lopez said, “and then worked at Moonstone for six to seven hours a day.”
Last year, Lopez and Verlangieri bought Caren’s Corner, a shop that sells ice cream, sandwiches and gifts in Cambria’s West Village.
He said they plan to keep Caren’s and operate both businesses. “Black Cat is only open for dinner,” he said, but that may change. “At first, we want to open seven days a week there,” rather than the current five-day-a-week schedule. “Then in May or June, maybe we’ll open for lunch” and add live jazz entertainment every Friday.
Lopez said they plan to start at Black Cat “this week, so we’re excited and nervous at the same time.”