Danville could take action on condemned restaurant

Danville City Commission may soon take action concerning a deteriorating restaurant building along the southern end of the U.S. 150 bypass.

The old Sutton’s Restaurant building has been vacant for years; it was condemned more than a year ago, in June 2016, due to collapse of an air system on the roof and the property not being maintained, said Bridgette Lester, the city’s director of codes and financial enforcement.

Roof damage to the building is evident from a distance — the building’s heating and cooling system units can be seen lilting at angles from the bypass.

Code Enforcement Officer Tom Broach said the building is “collapsing in on itself.” Mold, mildew and standing water are problems, and weather can enter the inside of the building through the roof on a daily basis.

“If you go in, you can see the sky through the roof of the building,” he said. “… Eventually the whole roof is going to go.”

The building is owned by Coastal Advertising Company Inc, which has a Canoga Park, California, address, Lester said. The company was given 90 days to comply with a demolition order after condemnation on June 17, 2016, meaning they should have complied by mid-September last year, she explained.

“So we’re at the point now where it’s ready to go to the attorney to go forward,” she said. “… We’re well past the time where they were supposed to do something.”

Danville Mayor Mike Perros asked about the building at the most recent regular Danville City Commission meeting.

“How long are we going to sit there before the whole roof caves in?” Perros asked.

City Attorney Stephen Dexter said he planned to bring the issue before the commission for possible action either at the Monday, Aug. 28 meeting or the next one after, on Sept. 11.

Perros said he fields quite a few questions from the public about the building.

Broach said Thursday the next step is to take the case to circuit court. The city could attempt to demolish the property itself and then place a lien on the property for the cost of demolition, he said.

Broach said he spoke with the company that owns the building this week and has been trying to help them fix up or deal with the building for a while, ever since he condemned it.

Ben Kleppinger/ben.kleppinger@amnews.com
The old Sutton’s restaurant building along the Danville bypass was condemned in 2016 due to deteriorating conditions and a lack of maintenance, according to Danville Director of Codes and Financial Enforcement Bridgette Lester.

Broach said he’s provided the company with information about local contractors who could work on the building, but it’s been difficult for the company to make anything happen. People with the company in California don’t know any of the local contractors here, and the local contractors don’t know who they’re dealing with when a company calls from California, he said.

Now, Broach is attempting to get quotes for the company to demolish the building, but that will be “very expensive” due to the size of the structure, he said.

Lester said the situation is similar to others the city has to deal with when properties are foreclosed on and ownership transfers to mortgage companies.

“We deal with it a lot because of mortgage companies,” she said. “… We’re dealing with people in other cities or states, trying to get them in compliance or get yards mowed. … It’s not simple. That’s a hard thing for people to understand. They think you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, but we are — there’s due process rights for property owners.”

Broach similarly noted that the rights of property owners must be respected and the legal processes followed by the city. “If this was a Communist country,” then the city could just go in and tear the building down — but it’s not, he said.

“You can’t just bulldoze over someone’s property rights,” he said. “You have to give them time.”

That said, Broach noted the building is in a “prime area” for development, and the land would likely be quickly snatched up and used if the building could be dealt with.

The building served as Woody’s Steakhouse and then Sutton’s restaurant in the late 2000s. It was also a used car lot for a brief period after Sutton’s had relocated to Lexington, where it is still in operation today.

Broach said about five years ago, a group of people from Los Angeles traveled to Danville to look at the property, with the intention of using it to open an upscale Mexican restaurant.

“They flew back to L.A. and we never heard another word,” he said. “So it’s just sitting there, getting rained on.”

Broach and Lester said Danville has not lost track of the building, it’s just the process for dealing with condemned properties is lengthy and complex.

“It’s not forgotten,” Broach said. “We’re staying on it one way or another.”