Struggling Green Valley Grill signs new lease to save money

Santa Cruz Sentinel


WATSONVILLE — After several years of missing rent payments in a slow economy, the Green Valley Grill will be moving two miles away to 972 Main St., a much smaller, cheaper location that will allow the 20-year-old establishment to stay open.

“It was hard to find a place,” said owner Ray Rodriguez. “If I couldn’t find a place, I would have had to shut down.”

The new location, formerly Lorraine’s Packing Shed, “has been a favorite (restaurant location) of the old-timers forever.” Rodriguez said. “We just fell right into it. It was perfect.”

At 3,200 square feet, the new location is about 4,000 square feet smaller than the current location at 40 Penny Lane. Rent is about a third of what it was at the current location. There also will be outdoor patio seating for about 30 people and the doors will be open seven days a week.

Whether the new location will be able to accommodate meetings and banquets, which was a big business for the restaurant, however, is uncertain.

“It’s a huge change,” Rodriguez said. “It’s better controlled. The rent is cheaper. The cost of operation is cheaper. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even make some money for a change.”

Rodriguez described the rent as “ridiculously high” and said he will save about $9,000 a month on rent alone and have a smaller overhead.

Chef Elvis Gomez, who has been with the restaurant for most of the past two decades, will continue to provide the same California cuisine menu with items cooked on an oak grill. Salad and wine specials will be available for the early weekend diners. The interior décor will maintain a similar color scheme and ambiance and Rodriguez said they would try to provide an enclosed area in the new location for banquet and meeting patrons.

“We’re hoping we can satisfy our customers with what we’ve got planned for them.”

The restaurant’s financial troubles extend back about two years, said Peter Thomas, a member of the family trust that owns the building.

“They were a great tenant but they were way, way, way behind on their rent,” Thomas said. “We let them go as long as they possibly could but they defaulted. The downturn was tough on them. They were so far behind on the rent they were unable to catch up.”

The restaurant will continue to employ about 37 people despite the smaller size because it will be open Sundays. The doors will close July 16 and reopen at the new location Aug. 1.

Despite the closure, the Watsonville Rotary Club will continue to meet in the banquet room at the 40 Penny Lane location until its members find a new location or the building space is leased, Thomas said.


Green Valley Grill Inc.

WHAT: A restaurant, catering and banquet business serving California cuisine and featuring an oak wood stove.

HEADQUARTERS: 40 Penny Lane, Watsonville; moving to 972 Main Street, Watsonville

BACKGROUND: Incorporated June 1, 1992

LEADERSHIP: Raymond Rodriguez, president




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