Employees buy, reopen bankrupt restaurant as part-owners
The new owners of the restaurant, Javier Montoya, Salvador Rios, Angel Gomez, Sergio Ugalde and Mateo Cervantes at Alfredo's Granada Family Restaurant in Burbank on Tuesday, June 14, 2011. (Tim Berger/Staff photographer)
The Granada restaurant, a Victory Boulevard landmark for nearly 40 years, re-emerged from an eight-month closure Monday with sizzling fajitas, cold margaritas and new owners who will probably look familiar to longtime patrons.
A group of employees bought the former Alfredo’s Granada out of bankruptcy after it closed in October and hosted a grand opening Monday. Longtime waiter Sergio Ugalde is now also part owner.
“Almost all the employees are coming to work again,” Ugalde said as he helped touch up the interior of the restaurant, now just called the Granada, before reopening day. “The people don’t want to miss anything. They want to see all the faces.”
Launched by Alfredo Bernal in 1971, the restaurant attracted a loyal following of regulars. Alfredo Bernal died in 2003, and members of his family took over.
Last year, a series of complications forced the restaurant to go under, according to then-co-owner Alex Bernal. A lawsuit brought by an employee, a slowdown during the recession and disagreements among members of the Bernal family prompted the owners to close Alfredo’s Granada on Oct. 2.
Word had spread among regulars, and the place remained filled hours after the owners locked the front door, with patrons let in the back by family members and friends.
According to bankruptcy court documents, Bernal Enterprises Inc. filed for bankruptcy in November. The owners listed assets of $52,000, including $25,000 for the restaurant’s liquor license and thousands of dollars’ worth of furnishings and kitchen equipment.
The bankruptcy petition listed liabilities of $455,000, including $272,000 from a Los Angeles County Superior Court judgment against the restaurant on behalf of former employee Javier Montoya, who sued in 2010 for allegedly failing to pay overtime wages. Other debtors included Wells Fargo Bank and food and liquor suppliers.
The restaurant grossed $1.2 million in its last 12 months, down from nearly $1.5 million in 2008, according to court records.
On March 30, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Richard Neiter authorized the sale of the restaurant to a group of workers called Granada Restaurant Employees Inc. for $85,000.
Ugalde is among the group of new owners, but he’s not letting ownership go to his head.
“I was a waiter the whole time,” Ugalde said. “I will be a waiter again.”