Boardwalk restaurant gives up fight

Boardwalk restaurant gives up fight

Since: Feb 08

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#1 Oct 16, 2008
Boardwalk restaurant gives up fight

(Published: Thursday, October 16, 2008)

ATLANTIC CITY - There are plenty of reasons not to cry for George Siganos.

He is not the typical Boardwalk storeowner who lost a fight with a casino developer to keep his only business open. He did fight. He did lose. But he holds the title to a long list of other businesses in seven states, including New Jersey.

Yes, Siganos will be fine. The strip he transformed from seedy stores to a line of upscale shops could be a different story.

His three Boardwalk businesses, including the Opa Bar & Grille, were shuttered Wednesday, a result of turbulent negotiations with his new landlord, Pinnacle Atlantic City.

Opa and 17 other stores were scheduled to be demolished this fall to make way for Pinnacle's $1.5 billion casino project. But indefinite construction delays, coupled with community concern, led to a one-year lease extension.

Siganos declined comment before his stores were cleared Wednesday, releasing a simple statement through a spokeswoman.

"Mister Siganos is sad to see Atlantic City's best restaurant go. He is happy he had seven successful years on the Boardwalk and feels he made a positive change," spokeswoman Lauren Avellino-Turton wrote in an e-mail.

Siganos recently told The Press he was never against Pinnacle or their plans for demolition. But he hoped his shops could stay open while the casino project remained in flux.

He said it was about preserving the appearance of the strip, a vision he brought to the Boardwalk five years ago.

In 2003, Siganos put up $3 million of his own money to rejuvenate the afflicted area. Opa, a high-end Greek restaurant, became the cornerstone of the line of new businesses brought in. Siganos also opened two other stores that closed Wednesday, including Kandyland.

But as Siganos' signs were stripped from several storefronts Wednesday, the 1700 block of the Boardwalk began to blend back in with the collection of battered businesses.

"I know he's put his heart and soul into that strip right there," Councilman George Tibbitt said. "He was like the caretaker to the rest of the people on that block."

But Pinnacle officials say Siganos' counter offer to their new terms were so low they wouldn't be able to pay their property taxes, let alone turn a profit. Pinnacle, like many other resort landowners, was forced to increase costs because of the recent, long-delayed property revaluation that jolted annual taxes.

And Siganos is the only one terminating his lease. The other stores that used to lease out to Siganos were able to come to terms with Pinnacle. Most store managers would not comment on record Wednesday out of concern about angering their new landlord. Some said their new rent is tough, but manageable.

City leaders had been monitoring Siganos' situation with Pinnacle, previously. But most were unaware of Wednesday's closure.

"I don't know many people that are going to go in there now," Tibbitt said. "It doesn't make much sense to open up a business just to see it torn down in a year."

E-mail Michael Clark:

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