923 1st Avenue, Downtown San Diego
“The letter came registered mail — signature requested on July 3.” It was an eviction notice. Katie Halvin says it gave her until November 1 to vacate her Parkway Bar. She and her husband Doug have owned and operated the La Mesa saloon for the past five years. “The world came out from under me,” she says. Since no reason for the eviction was listed, Doug Halvin called the property owner. The short of it is that the Halvins had somehow failed to file the lease option under the terms stipulated in their rental contract. But there’s more...
The Parkway Bar wasn’t singled out for eviction — a number of other retailers in the strip mall got similar notices. “But had we sent the property owner written notification in time, we’d have another five years on our lease,” she says, “and he’d have to buy us out.” The way it stands now, Halvin will leave with nothing to show for her time and investment. That’s a hard lesson learned, she says as she looks about her domain on a crowded Sunday afternoon. “He told us we could take the fixtures.”
The irony is that earlier that week, Halvin and her husband had decided to sell off his swimming-pool-cleaning business and go all-in at the bar. Applying for a full liquor license was on their radar. She says the beer-and-wine-only establishment pays for itself with enough left over to buy groceries for her family. “We wanted to flip the place into a more profitable business.”
But it turns out the property owner, Aaron Dean, has similar ideas. Halvin found this out when she looked into the possibility of taking over another space in the strip mall.
“We called Mr. Dean to find out what his plans were. He said, ‘I’m gutting [the retail spaces] from the Parkway Bar all the way down to the vet’s office next door to the Souplantation.’”
Along with part of the strip mall, Dean owns a company called HTF Global, a company that markets private-label spirits; he also had a hand in the development of the Gaslamp Quarter. He confirmed by phone that plans include the possibility of a microbrewery, a restaurant, and a potential entertainment venue.
“My family has been part of the city of La Mesa for 50 years. My grandfather bought that property in the ’60s. It’s time to clean up a dilapidated shopping center.”
Halvin declines to say how much she and her husband paid to purchase and renovate the Parkway Bar. “I still want to see [the property owner] honor that lease in some way. It’s hard for me to swallow.”