Amid the distress, Mike Downs can see a bright side
  • Amid the distress, Mike Downs can see a bright side
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Mike Downs and his family have owned the Grand Deli, on the corner of Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Street in Carlsbad Village, for 28 years. On August 27, he will close the doors to the popular eatery forever.

The Grand Deli

595 Grand Avenue, Carlsbad

Downs says the multi-tenant building was sold last December, in the middle of re-negotiating his lease. Without ever meeting the new owner, Downs was told his rent would be going up from $4200 a month to $6000, and up to $7000 next year.

To stay in business, Downs had to raise the prices on his vast menu by 15 percent across the board. He explained the price increase to his customers via signage posted at the cash register. “Most people didn’t mind,” said Downs.

After years in business, weathering the recession, putting up with the city’s road-construction project on his block since April, and the price of eggs doubling, Downs felt the rent increase was the final straw. The reality sank in. He could no longer stay in business.

Once the decision was made months ago, he felt he needed to tell his staff. “I wanted to be up front with them. They would find out sooner or later,” he said. Some quit to find other full-time jobs, including his main cook. The popular breakfast-and-lunch restaurant started having to close earlier during the week and close on Sundays due to not enough staff.

“Change is always weird,” said Downs. “It’s been very emotional and tearful. People I don’t even know come up to me at Costco and give me a hug.”

“It’s just another example of greedy landlords,” said customer Cheryl of Encinitas. “We need more, not less, family places like the Grand Deli.”

Taking the Grand Deli’s place will be the second location of Cardiff by the Sea’s Cicciotti's Trattoria Italiana and Seafood.

“Just what we need, another Italian restaurant,” said customer Lois from Carlsbad — a sarcastic quip referring to the two dozen Italian restaurants from Del Mar to Oceanside along the Coast Highway 101 corridor.

Downs, meanwhile, wants to keep everything positive. He pointed out that Cicciotti’s loaned him one of their chefs to help out until the end.

The Grand Deli will have a final farewell on Friday afternoon, August 28. The $15 menu will be all-you-can-eat. “We’re serving everything we have left,” said Downs.

As for Downs’s future? “I’m going backpacking, by myself, in the Sierras, along the Pacific Crest Trail, from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney.” He also looks forward to spending more time with his son, doing things he never had time to do, like Boy Scout treks.

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Ponzi Aug. 21, 2015 @ 10:09 a.m.

Don't dine at Cicciotti's Trattoria Italiana and Seafood and teach the new landlord a lesson when they go broke. Also, send a message that San Diego doesn't need any more fake Italian food places.


Eleanor Aug. 21, 2015 @ 4:43 p.m.

First of all the chef is from Italy. Second, why hate on Cicciotties? I've had great food there. Service was good. Why the hate?


Visduh Aug. 21, 2015 @ 10:21 a.m.

The concentration of Italian eateries along the coast from Del Mar through Carlsbad is really ridiculous. But they would not be there unless they had customers. A few of them always are fully reserved, even on weekday evenings in winter. So the business is there for that type of sit-down experience. However, tastes change and customers are fickle. Soon some other style of ethnic cuisine will be all the rage, and those trattorias and osterias and . . . will be suffering and closing their doors.

Between Encinitas and Leucadia I can count only two sit-down Mexican restaurants. One is very popular, with festive, noisy customers swilling $10 margaritas. But the food? Saying it is uninspired is being nice. While it claims to have traditional Mexican cooking, and while the menu makes it all sound great, the reality is a woeful lack of flavor. What that area needs is a few good Mexican restaurants, like we used to enjoy. What ever happened to them? Hole-in-the-wall taco joints don't make it for me.


jnojr Aug. 21, 2015 @ 12:23 p.m.

"Greedy landlords"? Who here owns rental property, and rents it out for the same amount they would have received in 1960? Answer: nobody. The new owner of this building pays far greater property taxes (hey, let's end Prop 13 and have property owners pay even more, because it's all free money!). They will be paying horrendous amounts for permits. They'll be paying taxes on the rental income they receive. They'll constantly be bombarded with regulations and fees and higher costs by people screeching that they're what's wrong with America. And so prices will continue to go up, and the weak bleating of the left will continue.

Want to see what used to be come back? Get rid of 90% of government. Let people earn a livelihood without confiscatory taxes and reams of paperwork and tangled webs of bureaucracy. Let businesses do business, and they'll make money and employ people and grow and buy more things. Or we can keep adding government and having more and more problems and uselessly blame those who are just trying to make a living.


500ml Aug. 21, 2015 @ 2:05 p.m.

Which 90% of government would you, in your infinite wisdom, recommend cutting? Is your hatred of government only limited to the zoning and permit agencies, who will prevent someone from opening a dangerous factory right next to where people go out to eat, and will keep unlicensed roach coaches and sidewalk vendors from selling food out in front of the restaurant (heck, they’re businesses, too)? Or does it include the police department, who will show up at the restaurant when there is an emergency? The firefighters and EMT who will show up when there’s a kitchen fire? The water department who makes sure clean water comes out of the restaurant’s faucets, or the sanitation department that will deal with the water after it’s flushed down the drain? Perhaps you’d cut the transportation department that built the highways and roads the restaurant’s customers use to drive there, and its distributors’ trucks use to deliver food? No, maybe you’d cut the health department that makes sure the restaurant –and its competitors—isn’t serving dangerous food? Or would you cut the budget of public schools, which educate people so that they can have jobs that enable them to afford to eat out at nice restaurants? Perhaps you’d rather cut the court system, that will be there if the owner needs to sue a vendor for breach of contract? Or the financial regulators who ensure the owner’s bank isn’t ripping him off? Or the military and public university labs that invented the internet that you read this article on?


AlexClarke Aug. 22, 2015 @ 6:35 a.m.

People always want government cut except for the parts that apply to them. Every law and regulation was put in place because someone or some business made bad decisions. When these people ask what parts of government should be cut they can never come up with one. All one has to do is look at older communities that developed without regulation and you will find homes next to toxic businesses. Drive around Logan Heights or Lemon Grove or rural El Cajon / Lakeside and see the unregulated mix.


sumguy Aug. 22, 2015 @ 9:58 a.m.

No mention what the former landlord was asking. Probably much more than $4200. Otherwise they would have had an agreement in place before the sale. If either the new owner or the existing owner valued the existing biz, they could have negotiated a lower price. Value = net income. Seems both the old and new owners wanted moar! The Grand Deli had no value in the equation as proven by the fact that it will cease to exist. Wonder how much the new owner is "contributing" to the tenant improvements to remake a deli into a fancy Italian spot? Bet its around $50,000.


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