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Nasty Feud in Lakewood: Area Homeowners and Landlord are Holding Matt’s Rancho Martinez Hostage

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.

  • VM

    I’m having trouble following that. I’ve been watching Matt’s patio progress for the last several weeks and wondering about it, looked it was going to be an open pass through window/bar setup sort of like Bolsa. Do they (landlords) want to permanently close off that street?

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  • Nancy Nichols

    VM, they wanted to but it isn’t going to happen. However when they applied to abandon the street, it caused the neighborhood to become suspicious of what Stonelake is planning for the area. They own a lot of property there. Hence, their actions caused a lot of commotion and Matt’s is in a holding pattern until it clears up. If it doesn’t happen fast, Matt’s may have to take other actions.

  • dallasboiler

    I don’t know why anybody would have a problem with closing that tiny segment of La Vista anyway. People heading westbound on La Vista fly through there way too fast right now as it is. It’s very easy to drive the 200 ft further to the light at Skillman and hang a right. There’s no way that it could add more the 30 seconds to anybody’s drive, and I think that transforming that area to a pedestrian mall would upgrade that particular shopping center.

    It’s going to be a great little area with Matt’s, Wine Thersapist, Mecca, La Calle Doce, Gold Rush, Pour House, Lakewood Landing, Cosmo’s, Stoney’s and the other shops are clustered together there.

  • Nancy Nichols

    Agree dallasboiler. The idea of closing the street or not closing it is not the problem. However once you change the street’s function, it could affect other permits an established building might require such as parking, electrical and water and sewage hookups. I don’t believe the folks at Matt’s were against closing the street, it’s just their opening has been held up by area neighborhood associations that are now concerned with Stonelake’s overall plans for the area. Matt’s is stuck until all sides have settled.

  • hombre de la noche

    but ms. nancy won’t the street closure eliminate some of the existing on-street parking and put yet more cars into the surrounding neighborhoods? or since those parking spaces no longer use the public street for manuevering they can now be counted as legal off-street spaces and therefore every parking space means another 100 square feet of alcohol-fueled seating open until 2am and increase the amount of commerical square footage available for development which in turn will cause an increase in traffic, noise, etc

  • Nancy Nichols

    Si hombre de la noche, I just stated that although not as masterly as you kind sir.

  • MAW

    Is it the Swiss Ave folks who are giving Stonelake the hard time? Because I swear they want to keep that part of Dallas low income. “Alcohol is the Devil.” Clueless!

  • MAW

    Also, Angela Hunt is NOT Pro-business. She is Pro-Reelection.

  • Nancy Nichols

    MAW, according to Marsters, the folks at Matt’s have met with the homeowners associations of Swiss Ave, Munger, Junius Height, and Lower Greenville.

  • MAW

    And those HO groups will tell Matt’s “We Love You, Matt’s” but will feel very powerful holding thIngs up indefinitely. Bunch of housewives et al who have never owned or operated anything but their households and have no idea the amount of stress and expense Matt’s will incur while the homeowners hold meetings so they can feel like game changers. Pathetic! (yes, I on

  • MAW

    I know, I’m rambling! Been running an actual business all day followed by too many drinks at Wine Therapist! Haha.

  • JW

    Hate to break it to you guys but if I were a betting man I’d bet mucho dinero that this is a shakedown spearheaded by Ray W. Think about it….

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  • Jackson

    I’m unclear re landlords: The headline identifies Matt’s landlord as the issue, and the story then initially identifies that landlord as Stonelake Investments. Yet in paragraph #2 we’re told that “the landlord chose to replace Matt’s with a Mi Cocina, which is already up and running.”

    Are we not talking about two different landlords here? Isn’t Stonelake the new Matt’s landlord, and LPC the previous landlord where Matt’s used to be (where Mi Cocina is now)?

  • Buford

    I’m all for making our city more pedestrian friendly, so I tend to think that having a ‘pedestrian space’ would be a good thing. Loss of that section of La Vista to the automobile would cause no one very much inconvenience. Am I missing something?

  • DDD

    @JW – There is no connection. Two totally different, unrelated landlords and completely different location and issue.

  • Nancy Nichols

    Jackson, my fault. too many moving parts for my brain. Two different landlords. Matt’s landlord at old location chose not to renew Matt’s lease and leased to Mi Cocina.. Matt’s new landlord is Stonelake. Sorry for the confusion, really..DDD, you are right. No connection.

  • JW

    I will not comment further but Ray W. dba MiCocina is a competitor of Matt’s, last I checked therefore……

    I’ll let your minds take care of rest.

  • oldfoodguy

    It is simple, Submit your plans , get a permit , put a budget together , adhere to your budget and open. The city is very easy to work with when you follow the rules.

  • Borborygmus

    If the landlord is impeding the opening by their actions, Matt’s needs to put their rent in a legal escrow account until this is settled. Nothing gets greased until the grease is hot.

    This landlord doesn’t appreciate how few name recognized restaurants are willing to put in 1.5 million in this economy. They should be glad it has a track record and cash in the bank.

  • Threeboys

    Sorry gang, this is Dallas and if something like this isn’t getting through at the last minute it is because someone isn’t greasing the right skids.

  • Chickmagloor

    Folks – just heard that Stonelake decided to stop their La Vista beautification efforts. I say this is a loss to the neighborhood. I have used that patch of La Vista and people just fly down that street. It is a hazard and should be made narrower to slow down traffic. I think Stonelake was right to try and abandon the street . I have seen few streetscapes where trees and parallel parking tend to calm down the traffic. Obviously, City of Dallas / Councilmember Hunt have not done anything to make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly and when somebody else is trying to do the city’s job for them, they create such artificial barriers. This is not right – @oldfoodguy – from what I have heard, Matt’s has all the permits including patio license to open, it is the councilmember/HO that has stopped the work. I mean rules are rules and if you follow them you should be allowed to open but in this case those rules mean nothing i guess. Anyways a small rant – I want our neighborhood to be beautiful and pedestrian friendly and not have cars driving by on La Vista at 80mph.

  • Stonelake

    Our intention was to create “Lakewood Plaza” where families could gather. All plans to purchase the street have been pulled. Stonelake is no longer requesting anything from the City. The only request is by Matts for Matts patio. We have worked with Matt every step of the way. Matt was originally moving entirely out of the Lakewood area. We “recruited” Matts after purchasing Skillman Live Oak Center to keep Matts in the area as its been proudly serviing the Lakewood area for over 25 years. There is no disagreement with Stonelake and Matts. We (like most in Lakewood) simply want Matts to open! – Stonelake

  • DDD

    I think JW owes R Washburne an apology.

  • Niles

    Criminal rents. When will bar and restaurant owners figure out that these landlords have mortgages too and refuse to pay those rents and let them sweat that check every month.

  • Maddie Gist

    Growing up in East Dallas, Matt’s has always been our go-to restaurant for family birthdays, long time-no see meals, welcome home from college gatherings and once a week, “I’m craving Bob Armstrong dip!”. Point being, Matt’s is a part of my childhood that I’m not ready to see go. Matt’s is the one restaurant my brother and I actually agree on after church no matter who’s turn it may be to pick that Sunday. Please bring it back!

    Thank you!,
    Maddie Gist

  • Don’t Mess With TEXAS!

    Matt’s was a Texas tradition way before it was a Lakewood tradition. (Do you know who Bob Armstrong was?) In fact the Bob Armstrong was an ‘off the menu’ item forever! I always thought they put it on the menu just so the foreigners could enjoy it too. That was just the way Matt was! :)

    The city gave away a whole block of Marquita Ave to the Church of Christ on Skillman so one would think Ms. Hunt (the red light camera lady) could get her kickback straightened out and let Matt’s proceed.



  • Don’t Mess With TEXAS!


    Get it Done!

    The wife wants her Matt’s Standup!

  • godjilla

    I am still just as baffled today as I was last year when I heard (while enjoying me some Bob Armstrong dip & margaritas) that the (previous) landlord had chosen to replace Matt’s with (big box, blah food) Mi Cocina in the first! Way to take the “neighbor” out of neighborhood.

    Two of my favorite places to go are Cosmo’s and Lakewood Landing, I’m happy that Matt’s will be there to. Not so much that Mecca is moving there…they lost it years ago with new ownership.

    CITY OF DALLAS & power hungry HOA’s: PLEASE, I beg you, get out of the way and let Matt’s open.

  • Truth

    I’m all for keeping the local neighborhood institutions open for business; however, let’s be fair here — strictly comparing food/drink, Mi Cocina soundly beats Matt’s on all accounts (with the exception of the Bob Armstrong).

  • http:[email protected] Gene

    And thus the city of Dallas continues to wonder why they can’t get the crowds rushing to them like they do in Fort Worth, North Plano, and other major cities. Gee … maybe it’s about being business friendly!

  • think about it

    The word is if they close la vista it will create a loss of parking. nobody mentions that fact that they loose a few space, but gain some spaces on both ends of where la vista is closed. Really, why is everyone up in arms about this? We don’t seem to have any problems with opening restaurants and bars in other parts of Dallas, that clearly have not enough parking!! and as it stands, I don’t remember that area of town being a spot for businesses to open and thrive. I’ve seen several come and go on that corner. We should embrace something that will stick around for the long haul.

  • Claire Cunningham

    This is a ridiculous bunch of arguments. Let this good Lakewood business get back in business.

  • smseidenfeld

    I believe this story has been reported accurately. It is my understanding that the major “sticking points” involve the landlord/owner’s (Stonelake Investments) lack of cooperation. Apparently they have not been forthright with either their tenants or the neighborhood regarding the master plan for the property. It seems that the out of town property owners/investors want to try to do as they wish without regard for the interests of their tenants or the surrounding neighborhoods. This has led to applications for proposed plan changes even after prior approval has been obtained, which has raised suspicion in the neighborhoods.

  • Ann Thornton

    Quit bickering. Grow up. Let Matt’s open. They have been good neighbors, employers and service providers for years. I want my Bob dip. NOW.

  • Katie R

    Come on up to Frisco….we won’t fight you and we love your food!

  • linda

    JUST DO IT !