ANTIOCH -- A riverfront restaurant named after a stranded whale has sprung some financial leaks -- possibly leaving the city out nearly $75,000 in unpaid rent and utilities.
Eva and Gilbert Romero recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on their properties, which include the Humphrey's on the Delta restaurant. The two-decade-old restaurant, which is still open, is built on Antioch-owned marina land and pilings.
According to a lease agreement with Antioch, Eva Romero must pay $4,089 in rent a month or 3 percent of gross receipts, whichever is greater. However, the city said in its recent budget report that she has only paid $1,000 since June 2011.
According to city documents, Antioch found out from Wells Fargo Bank in March that Romero defaulted on her loan and a foreclosure sale had been scheduled for June 1. The Romeros filed bankruptcy the day before the scheduled sale.
Bankruptcy filings show near $150,000 in unsecured claims from credit lenders, close to $70,000 in unsecured legal claims and $20,000 in utility claims.
Antioch plans to file a claim for the $48,068 it is owed in bankruptcy court, but is uncertain how much, if any, it will recover.
Antioch has not heard from Romero or her attorney about the status of the bankruptcy and a possible sale of the restaurant, City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland said.
"The city of Antioch, and ultimately the Antioch taxpayers, should not be forced to write off a debt from
In the letter, Nerland also inquired about unpaid sewer bills to the county from 2010 and 2011 totaling almost $24,000.
In April, the City Council was approached by Samir Rohayem, a potential buyer for the restaurant, asking the city to delay taking legal action against Romero for not paying rent.
Romero declined to comment for this story. Auerbach did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Family friends point out the Romeros sold the restaurant a few years ago, though she carried the burden of the business debt. She took over the restaurant over last year when the new owner defaulted and has been struggling to catch up financially, as it was behind on lot of bills with vendors and suppliers.
Antioch's Marina Fund is projected to have enough money to cover operations the next two years, according to a budget adopted by the city this week. However, city officials say it is vital to be able to collect rent going forward to help avoid having to subsidize the restaurant in the future.
The restaurant, built in 1990, is named after the misguided whale that found its way into the Delta in 1986.
Romero purchased the restaurant from original owner Bill Peluso in early 1995.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.