S’Bistro, a three-year-old upscale restaurant in downtown Mesa, has closed in the wake of a financial dispute between the eatery’s owner and the building’s landlord.
Chef-owner Brian Banasek says he was told to cease operations last week by landlord Craig Prouty so the restaurant, 124 W. Main St., could be put up for sale.
Banasek admits he was “a bit behind” on the rent, but says he paid Prouty last month’s rent along with a portion of this month’s.
“He said, ‘I still think we should go our separate ways. I’m going put a For Lease sign in window and I want you to stop operations,’” says Banasek, who also ran a catering business out of the restaurant.
Before the locks could be changed, Banasek (pictured at left) moved out most of the kitchen equipment last Wednesday and Thursday.
Prouty, who learned of Banasek’s departure Friday, describes the dispute differently.
“We had to really press him for rent the last six months,” he says. “I told him, ‘Maybe it’s time to stop and we’ll help you sell it.’
“We worked out what we thought was a deal for him to transition out and sell the business. Instead, he packed up in the middle of the night.”
Prouty says he already had forgiven four months of unpaid rent by Banasek and lowered the monthly rent by $600 more than a year ago.
Prouty, a former president of the Downtown Mesa Association, a group that represents downtown businesses, must decide whether to pursue civil action against Banasek.
But, he admits, “He (Banasek) doesn’t have anything.”
Banasek, a graduate of the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, says his plans are uncertain.
Prouty also is looking ahead, and already has been negotiating with potential new tenants for the 2,200-square-foot space.
“What we would like to see is something along the lines of what Brian had there but with good food,” he says. “He went out of business because the quality had deteriorated.”
Both sides say they’re disappointed the situation couldn’t have been worked out amicably.
“The saddest thing in this is not the monetary loss but the loss of trust,” Prouty says. “Brian was someone we believed in.”