Perdition Smokehouse closes Sunday without warning to property manager, some employees

Sierra Brown/Staff

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Without warning to some employees and the property manager, Perdition Smokehouse, a Texas barbecue and craft beer restaurant on University Avenue, served its last meals Sunday night.

Kathy Lococo, property manager at Lawrence J. Lococo and Co., received an email Monday from Chuck Stilphen, owner of Perdition Smokehouse, saying that he could no longer endure the financial loss of continuing operations. Stilphen could not be reached for comment by email.

Perdition Smokehouse opened in June 2014 with two Texan smokers for its meats and more than 40 craft beers on draft. The restaurant brought in Michael O’Brien, former chef at Mikkeller in San Francisco — a restaurant that Stilphen also owns.

The closure surprised some neighboring businesses, which regularly saw the restaurant with customers, while others saw it written in the stars.

“I thought it was a place that people will go to. I don’t know about the closure,” said Ryan Johnson, a cashier at Red Tomato Pizza House. Johnson also said businesses are hard-pressed in Berkeley because of high rent.

Robert Gaustad, owner of Bobby G’s Pizzeria, said he noticed that Perdition Smokehouse kept scaling back its hours.

“I learned early on when restaurant economics were going bad,” Gaustad said. “You can’t stay in business if you’re closing early. You’re not busy.

Lococo said Perdition Smokehouse was the fourth restaurant located on the 2050 University Ave. property since her client Craig Larsen has owned the building.

Larsen attempted to open Amadeus Cafe in 2013, but it closed within a week. Indian restaurant Zaika and upscale Meridian International Sports Cafe also opened and closed after long-term tenant Plearn Thai moved out and down the street in 2008 after nearly 25 years.

Stilphen was one year into a 10-year lease with Lococo’s firm.

“We’re not sure what we’re going to do next,” Lococo said, recognizing the difficulty to keep a business. “There’s a lot of money that was put into that restaurant.”

The property management company must work with Stilphen to figure out how to make rent, and former employees of Perdition Smokehouse may need to do the same. Employees could be seen cleaning the draft lines and packing up the restaurant Tuesday. One mentioned that he had received notice only Monday that the restaurant was closing.

“It’s a tough business, and with a location that pricey, one has to be wealthy, in my opinion, to take it over. I feel bad for the Perdition owners,” Gaustad said in an email. He attributed his pizzeria’s nine years in business to being an owner-operated location open seven days a week.

Restaurant Realty Company lists the property online for $150,000, with a $15,000 monthly rent for potential restaurateurs who would take over the lease, which expires in April 2024.

Contact Pamela Larson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @PamReporting.