High Sierra Grill & Bar closes its doors
High Sierra Grill & Bar, located in Goleta next to Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, closed its doors Sept. 1 in an attempt to minimize losses.
The eatery, which opened more than three years ago, operated with rent relief from the city from May 2018 until the end of May 2019, and Airport Business Development Manager Deanna Zachrisson told the News-Press that it was with the expectation that High Sierra’s earnings would improve.
“The rent relief’s intent was to give them an opportunity to turn them around, but they didn’t,” said Ms. Zachrisson.
The restaurant’s owners, Mario Medina and Manuel Perales, tried to assign the remainder of High Sierra’s lease over to the restaurant’s manager, Warren Butler.
Mr. Butler had planned on replacing High Sierra with a flight-theme concept, named Flightline, once he gained the lease, but the city denied the proposal of High Sierra and Flightline. If Flightline failed as a restaurant and ACI Jet (an investor of Flightline) took on the lease, the aviation company could have an advantage in the recompetition process after the airport’s redevelopment project.
With the city’s rejection and no signs of future rent relief, High Sierra closed its doors to minimize loss.
“We held off for as long as we could to absorb the losses,” said Mr. Perales. “We don’t think we can reopen. Financially, we can’t do it.”
The base cost of the rent, according to Ms. Zachrisson, is about $14,000, which excludes utilities.
“We cannot afford the full price of $15,000 per month (with utilities),” said Mr. Perales. “The rent is too high for a remote location, and the property taxes are outrageous.”
Mr. Perales was hesitant to discuss the ongoing negotiations between High Sierra and the city’s attorneys because an agreement has not yet been reached. He did tell the News-Press that the discussions focused on one thing: High Sierra’s exit strategy. The restaurant’s closure will affect regular customers and the approximately 40 employees who work at the venue. There will be a staff meeting today in the afternoon to notify the team of what is going on.
“We can’t do it anymore,” said Mr. Perales. “We have to stop the bleeding.”
Mr. Perales told the News-Press that with the ongoing negotiations, no paperwork has been signed and notarized to formalize the closure. He also added that others are interested in High Sierra’s venue, which could mean another lease assignment process.
“I got a phone call from Warren that (Redlands-based brewery) Hangar 24 is interested,” said Mr. Perales, who added that the brewery was checking out the venue.
For now, the attorneys of High Sierra and the city continue to work towards stamping out an agreement.