Zev Gutierrez

Angelina’s Restaurant manager Zev Gutierrez stands outside the main door of the restaurant. Angelina’s staff were locked out of the building Nov. 13 after being three months late on rent. Someone broke in through the window to Gutierrez’s left the same night and broke into the safe.

  Angelina’s Restaurant has been closed since Nov. 13. Plywood covers a broken window by the main door and paper closed signs are taped around the building, padlocks hold the business shut.

    According to Zev Gutierrez, the manager of the restaurant, and son of its owner Fidel Gutierrez, he got a call from the cook that came to open Angelina’s that Friday morning. The cook said there were trucks outside the restaurant and workers telling them to leave. The cook was worried that there was a COVID-19 outbreak.

    “But I knew what it was,” Zev said.

    Angelina’s Restaurant was three months late on rent and their landlord had come to collect.

    Angelina’s got its start after taking over the iconic Emilio’s Restaurant on Santa Clara Pueblo land by the Oñate Bridge. Fidel Gutierrez stayed there for its first 10 years until it moved to its current location on Española’s Westside, where it’s been for the last 25 years.

    At the time of the move, Fidel Gutierrez signed a lease with Española real estate magnate Richard Cook for $2,500 a month at its current location.

    Zev Gutierrez said Monday that at the time Fidel and Cook had a verbal agreement to sell the property to the restaurant over time, but that was not part of the lease. Fidel and his wife Angelina are currently the holders of the lease and both are in their 90s.

    When their current landlord Katharine (Cook) Fishman took over for Richard Cook after he died, Zev said she wasn’t interested in the verbal part of the agreement and the current arrangement was reached.

    Zev said the last communication they had with Fishman was on Nov. 3 with an email asking how they were planning on addressing the rent issues going forward.

    “It’s hard to imagine going from that to this,” Zev said.

    Neither Kathrine Fishman nor the Española Mercantile Co. Inc. have responded to a request for comment at this time.

    There was no formal warning sent to the restaurant according to Zev. He said Angelina Gutierrez received a letter in writing but it was essentially the same thing as the email.

    “She’s sorta stating that for lack of communication all this happened, which is funny because we’re here every day,” Zev said.

    Angelina’s is currently paying $7,800 a month for rent and covers it’s own property tax and liability insurance, known as a triple net lease.

    Angelina’s pulled in $2 million in 2019. Zev said this year to date they have grossed around $750,000. The restaurant received funds from the CARES Act, $98,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program and $140,000 in the form of an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Zev said.

    Almost half of the EID loan went to covering late rent and fees Zev said.

    The EID loan is a traditional loan that will need to be paid back but the PPP funds are a forgivable loan if the restaurant makes an attempt to hire back employees they had to let go during the pandemic.

    “When the COVID hit we were pretty nimble and we pretty much told everybody that was full time who could get unemployment, we pretty much said you need to apply for unemployment,” Zev said. “We had laptops here for three days and the employees worked to get everyone set up, we felt it was our responsibility, I mean it was hard, that one was hard that first round of layoffs was our most experienced, we had people that had been with us for 10 years, 15 years especially on the server side.”

    Angelina’s has loss insurance through Farmers though Zev said it would cover damages from having to clean up a COVID-19 outbreak at the restaurant it did not cover loss of revenue caused by the governor’s lockdown orders.

    At the start of the pandemic Zev said Fishman let them defer rent for several months from March until August. However the restaurant had not been able to pay the rent for August, September or October.

    “She came to us with the offer of deferment when it became obvious the COVID was going to come here, which was gracious of her.” Zev said. “This has been a departure from that. That’s what’s been hardest to swallow, the reversal.”

    Since the lockout began Zev said he and his brother met with Fishman, and they were planning on meeting Wednesday with their parents. Zev said the lease on the building was due for a resigning.

    On Nov. 13 Zev’s brother Jeremy Gutierrez was able to tour the premises. Much of the inside of the restaurant was locked up according to the Gutierrezes but the office was forced open and the floor safe was unlocked.

    “What they really were gaining by forcing entry into the office? I don’t think was much of anything,” Zev said. “Maybe they thought there was money in there, I guess with the landlord’s lien it does give her a right to money that’s on the premises.”

    Zev said he was also concerned with the office being open because that is where confidential files like the employee’s medical records are kept.

    Paychecks arrived at Angelina’s the evening of Nov. 12 and were meant to go out Friday, the lockout means the employees have yet to get paid for the week.

    Jeremy Martinez is the lead on the night shift at Angelina’s, and one of the employees whose paychecks are still in the building.

    “It’s a pretty big impact on all of us,” Martinez said. “I’m the big dog on the night shift and I look out for my crew.”

    Martinez said business was turning around before the lockout as the business and customers became more accustomed to using takeout.

    “It’s been going pretty good,” Martinez said. “We’ve been getting more to-go orders than anything.”

    Martinez said he hopes the restaurant owners and landlord can find a solution soon so he can get back to work.

    “I just really enjoy what I do and I love feeding people,” Martinez said.

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