Accusing West Tisbury businessman Paul Garcia of bolting on a $10,000 debt and dissolving his corporation to avoid paying it, the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) came out swinging this week in the dispute that erupted when the deli still popularly called Back Alley’s closed abruptly at the start of this month.
When he shuttered Garcia’s Deli and Bakery after more than seven years, Mr. Garcia blamed his landlords, the tribe, for raising his rent, calling them incompetent and dysfunctional.
Now the tribe is charging that “it appears that Mr. Garcia just does not like the lease terms to which he agreed.
“At no time after 2002 [when the lease began] did the tribe change any term of the lease or impose additional terms on Mr. Garcia . . . without his complete agreement,” according to a press release from the tribe’s lawyer, Douglas Luckerman, circulated this week along with a copy of the lease signed by Mr. Garcia.
“Unfortunately [Mr. Garcia] has now broken his lease, skipped out on tens of thousands of dollars he owes the tribe and dissolved his corporation in order to make it harder for the tribe to collect the money he owes us,” the tribe release states.
The rental lease terms were renegotiated in June 2007, in line with provisions outlined in the original lease, to $5,000 a month (from $3,500 in 2002) plus 3.5 per cent of gross sales (from two per cent previously) at the popular takeout eatery behind Alley’s General Store.
The terms also provided that “for years seven to ten, rent will be adjusted annually to reflect a five per cent increase from the previous year’s base rent.”
The tribe released Mr. Garcia’s signed acceptance of the terms of extending the lease, specifically agreeing to the additional rent of 3.5 per cent of gross sales. The tenant and landlord had been operating under the terms of the renegotiated lease since it was signed July 11, 2007.
Then, at the start of November, customers were greeted by hand-drawn signs saying everything would be sold by 5 p.m. But by 3 p.m. that Monday, Garcia’s Deli and Bakery was locked up for good.
Mr. Garcia did not return calls that week from the Gazette, but at the time he was quoted in the Martha’s Vineyard Times saying he’d tried to reach the tribe unsuccessfully to ask for changes.
The tribe denies this in the press release from Mr. Luckerman. “The tribe has no record of a request by Mr. Garcia to renegotiate the terms of his lease. At no time did Mr. Garcia provide the tribe with a warning that he was in financial trouble or that he intended to close Garcia’s Deli. He never notified the tribe that he intended to close his business, remove everything from the premises overnight and within days dissolve the corporation under which the Deli operated. The closing of Garcia’s Deli was . . . not something we wanted or anticipated,” it said, continuing:
“Despite the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the vacancy of the store, the tribe looks forward to working with the community in finding ways to make that space a productive and welcoming part of the community once again.”
Meanwhile the lease circulated by Mr. Luckerman this week includes a provision for default by the tenant, noting that should the tenant violate the lease, he would “indemnify and pay to the landlord all costs and expenses, including attorney fees, which the landlord may incur or pay by reason of the tenant’s default.”
Meanwhile, Alley’s General Store is stocking more take-out sandwiches.