Biz Buzz: More Weyrich woes as The Carlton restaurant and bar close

The bar and restaurant at The Carlton Hotel in Atascadero closed Wednesday, the latest bad news involving North County developer David Weyrich.

The closure was confirmed by Amir Karimpour, a Carlton employee. The 52-room hotel — on the corner of El Camino Real and Traffic Way and long considered a centerpiece of Atascadero’s revitalization efforts — remains open, he added.

According to the Atascadero Main Street Association, the state Board of Equalization pulled the seller’s permit for the restaurant and bar.

“We are saddened and concerned at this turn of events,” said City Manager Wade McKinney. “The Carlton is a landmark business for Atascadero.

We are hopeful that all the issues can be resolved and the restaurant and lounge will re-open soon.”

Weyrich, who is tens of millions of dollars in debt, was also forced to surrender key properties to foreclosure this week, including his luxury bed-and-breakfast inn in Paso Robles, the Villa Toscana.

The Carlton, originally built as an annex to the Atascadero Inn in 1929, was not facing foreclosure, though it, too, is in financial trouble.

According to its lender, R.E. Loans, the property has tens of millions of dollars worth of liens that Weyrich has defaulted on.

That property — assessed at nearly $14 million — has $451,865 in current and back property taxes due to the county. Weyrich also owes personal income taxes of nearly $465,000, according to Brenda Voet of the state Franchise Tax Board.

When The Carlton first opened in late 2004, upscale dinners were served in a second restaurant and wine cellar, called diVINE. The lower-priced Carlton Restaurant & Grill emphasized menu variety, from seafood to pizza. Since then Weyrich scaled back the grill to limited hours and further reduced its prices. In 2008, Weyrich also brought in the Art Café, a San Luis Obispo restaurant institution, but that did not last.

Last summer, the hotel’s general manager, Deana Alexander, said the restaurant provided about half of the hotel’s revenue. The banquet room that once housed diVINE was being booked for private dinners and meetings, which brought in about 20 percent of hotel revenue. Room rates had also come down at the four-star hotel. They ranged from $105 midweek for its smallest room to $265 for its largest, Alexander said.

Over the last year, The Carlton has also been under pressure from former employees who have complained to the state they were not paid weekly wages or had been given checks that bounced, according to documents filed with the state’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Alexander told The Tribune last week that employees are not being paid on a regular basis and she has been given the difficult task of choosing whom she should pay on any given day.

A call to Alexander on Wednesday was not returned.

— Melanie Cleveland