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2006 lease terms in 2010 economy prompts owners to close Tommys
Tommy’s Beach Bar and Grill owners Marcus and Shelley Shahen stand behind the bar for one last time Tuesday night as friends and patrons filled the restaurant for a last-night send-off. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Tommy’s Beach Bar and Grill owners Marcus and Shelley Shahen don’t want to close the doors on the establishment that they’ve operated faithfully for the last four years.

But being trapped in a lease that was signed in 2006 – at the cusp of the market before things started to drastically drop – has hamstrung the couple and forced them to at least temporarily shutter their location in the Manteca Marketplace on West Yosemite Avenue.

With a monthly lease payment of $12,000 – which Marcus Shahen says has come to represent more than a quarter of his monthly sales – and a landlord, he says, that isn’t willing to come to an agreement on a payment that is suitable for them in business, the couple says they have no choice but lock the doors and hope that something can be figured out in the coming months that will either allow them to reopen or find a new location where Tommy’s can continue.

“We’ve decided to shut down because we’re paying rent for a 2006 lease in a 2010 economy,” Shahen said. “We’re not doing this because we want to quit doing this – we’re doing this because $12,000 is a lot of money and we can’t afford to be working solely for somebody else when we have a family that we need to support. In Ripon, with the Ripon Roadhouse, I have the same amount of square footage downtown with rent that is a third of what we’re paying here.

“We just can’t keep doing this anymore.”

Tuesday night, the popular Manteca eatery opened at 4 p.m. with a limited menu to give their loyal customers a chance to spend one last night in the company of friends. Nearly every parking space within eyeshot was full. There was hardly any room for customers to maneuver their way through the thatch-roofed bar area as people chatted, hugged, and raised their glasses to the Shahens for being gracious hosts to a party that has taken on a family vibe.

The mood was somewhat somber as people filtered by the couple and expressed their condolences for having to close what has become more than just a business for the family. While Shahen admits that Tommy’s is not dead, he doesn’t yet know what will happen in the future as they prepare to go dark for the months of December, January and February – usually the slowest months of the year for a restaurant.

But while closing the doors on something that he invested so much time in creating sits heavy on the heart of Shahen, so does interrupting the flow of a place that has come to create such a big part of the family’s social life over the last four years.

“Shelley and I knew that we would have regular customers, but what we really ended up with were legitimate friends,” Shahen said. “We’re deeply moved by the people that have come into our life by way of this place, and the people of Manteca are amazing in supporting family-owned businesses like this. I just hope that we don’t have to take this away from them permanently.”

Ironically, Shahen said that when he contacted his lawyer and informed him that he’d be shutting the doors Tuesday night, the counsel for the landlords had also contacted Shahen’s lawyer to discuss a renegotiation of the lease – at the 11th hour after attempts at doing so for 18 months fell on deaf ears.

“This has taken its toll on us, and we’ve ended up working for just them,” Shelley Shahen said. “It’s sad to lose a big part of life like this in an awesome community that has come out to support all that we do. I think this is all about greed, and that’s unfortunate.”