Brian Marsters, Director of Operations for Matt’s Rancho Martinez, has saved 5,000 emails from customers asking when the new Lakewood location of this popular Tex-Mex restaurant will open. “I would like those 5,000 supporter to contact (Dallas City Councilmember) Angela Hunt and ask her the same question.” Marsters and co-owner Estella Martinez are befuddled by their situation. “We can’t open because we are caught in the crossfire of a feud between our landlord (Stonelake Investments), several area homeowners associations, and the City of Dallas.”
The saga started when Matt’s lease expired in February and the landlord chose to replace Matt’s with a Mi Cocina, which is already up and running. Matt’s relocated to the building vacated by Consignment Solutions at 1904 Skillman Ave. The opening has been delayed by a series of the usual suspects such as myriad permits, grease traps, and parking, but last Wednesday the plan for the restaurant and Stonelake Investments development projects clashed when Stonelake applied for a permit to close off a block of La Vista between Skillman and Live Oak and created a pedestrian mall.
Stay with me, now.
In short, if the application had been approved, it would have changed Matt’s easement for already approved permits, particularly those that involve the restaurant’s patio. The closure was not approved but the action of filing stirred up a hornet’s nest of activity in inquisitive neighborhood associations that started poking into Stonelake’s master plan for the area.
Marsters and Matt’s co-owner Estella Martinez, who found out about Stonelake’s proposed plan to shut down the street from a customer, are frustrated and livid. “We have been in this neighborhood for 25 years,” Martinez says. “We want to be grownups and move on and we want the community to welcome us. All we want is to get Matt’s open.”
They’ve had a plenty of verbal support from some high-profile neighbors, but none will go on the record because Stonelake is Matt’s landlord. Last night Martinez attended a homeowner’s meeting. “We have been under a microscope trying to get this place open,” Martinez says. “We finally got the city to sign off on everything.” Marsters claims they got the green light to pour the concrete for the patio and sidewalk but they are holding off until everyone agrees. Matt’s holds a temporary lease from the city on twelve feet of land under the proposed patio space and they are afraid to go ahead with construction and have to rip it up if the city changes the permits.
“The homeowners associations are sympathetic, I mean they understand our dilemma,” Martinez said. “But last night nobody reached any agreement and everything is on hold.” To date, they’ve already spent $1.5 million on the restaurant, paid three months rent ($57,000), and $200,000 in overages. “We are overstaffed and trying to keep them working in our other locations,” Marsters said. “But each day costs us at least $5,000. Our contractors are taking other jobs and it’s getting harder to get our job done. Wednesday I got the go ahead to pour only to get a call the next day from Angela Hunt to tell me to stop. And now the neighbors don’t trust Stonelake’s intentions and they are our landlords so they have mixed feelings about supporting us.”
So people, there is the skinny version of the story. If you want to express your opinion you can leave a comment below, send Marsters an email ([email protected]), or tell Angela Hunt ([email protected] ) you would like your chiles rellenos now. Estella Martinez says she can’t wait much longer and may have to pull the plug on the whole deal.