To begin with, I was one of the principals (limited partner) in the venture to bring the Flightline Restaurant to fruition on the Santa Barbara Airport.
As a native of Goleta, I had visited the original Flightline that was on the airport in the 1950s and 1960s with my parents for dinners on many occasions.
My main interest in the project was to bring a venue back to the airport that could say something positive about aviation in general as well as communicate the majestic experience that flying conveys to the observer.
Our project had significant support for the newly themed restaurant. A former U.S. Navy pilot offered to lend us, without cost, part of his large collection of aviation memorabilia to display in the restaurant. A well-known fixed base operator who has significant and successful operations in other California airports like John Wayne/Orange County and San Luis Obispo agreed to be one of our financial backers.
Patrons of the High Sierra Restaurant, who was then occupying the restaurant space in question, were extremely supportive of the concept for the Flightline Restaurant that we were proposing.
Then came the non-responsiveness of the city of Santa Barbara and its airport administration. Three and a half years ago, we had a meeting with the former airport manager. The purpose of the meeting from our viewpoint was to begin to work together on the Flightline project.
However, from the start of that meeting, our proposal was attacked and vilified. We were basically told we had no business trying to open the Flightline and did not have the experience to do so. This was told to a man, Warren Butler, who has extensive experience in restaurant management and at sophisticated venues in Los Angeles, for example, that are way beyond the scope that the management of the Flightline would entail.
On another occasion, I personally went before the Santa Barbara City Council and Mayor Cathy Murillo and warned them that the city would face significant litigation if they continued to block our venture without just cause. The city’s lease with the High Sierra specifically stated that the High Sierra had the legal right to reassign its lease to the Flightline principals.
Eventually, due to the city’s inaction and poor attitude, the High Sierra was forced to close its doors, and, thus, a lawsuit was filed against the city of Santa Barbara that Superior Court Judge Donna Geck recently ruled on in terms of saying the suit could continue to a jury trial and she would not rule in favor of a summary judgment for the city. The city then decided to settle.
Overall the city of Santa Barbara’s negligent actions in this debacle are going to cost it in the area of $750,000 in suit settlement compensation, lost restaurant revenue and legal fees.
As one of the principals in the Flightline, I went into the restaurant venture with open eyes. I wanted to do something for the Santa Barbara Airport and the city of Goleta in general. I am not complaining about what I have personally lost financially, which is approximately 75% of my investment. What bothers me more is that the taxpayers of Santa Barbara are going to have to foot the bill for the city administration’s ineptness.
The city does not have a great reputation when it comes to understanding private business. It is interesting that Mayor Randy Rowse has indicated that settling the lawsuit was a “business decision” (Santa Barbara News-Press, 12/13/22).
Lastly, just let me add that everything I have stated in this letter is true because I witnessed it happening. There is nothing “hyperbolic” about my statements.