Doug Kennedy is still looking to find a buyer or tenant for his nearly $5 million Sonora Armory complex, despite the property no longer being listed on the commercial real estate website LoopNet.
Kennedy said he took the listing down while getting close to reaching a deal with a company that he would not disclose, but talks broke down late last week amid uncertainty over the area’s bar scene and economy.
The concerns stemmed mainly from the recent closing of Winters Tavern Motherlode Grill, a bar and restaurant about a block away from the Armory that shut down earlier this month after a little over a year in business.
CJ Valenti and Corinne Robinson, owners of Winters Tavern, declined to comment on the reason for closing. They continue to own and operate the original Winters Tavern in Pacifica that opened in 2013.
“They’ve seen Winters shut down and asked what’s going on with economic development,” Kennedy said. “If you’re making that kind of investment, you want to know what’s going on.”
Kennedy said the deal he was close to sealing would have involved him leasing the building to a company as opposed to selling it. He’s currently asking for about $4.6 million.
There have been five prospects who have expressed interest in the project to Kennedy, but only three of them he considers viable options.
Nearly all of the potential deals Kennedy said he’s discussed have involved some form of a lease or lease-to-buy arrangement as opposed to a sale, with him potentially staying in the mix as a consultant to see through his vision for the business.
“It comes down to finding the right partner who knows what they’re doing and can operate a business that sustains itself,” he said. “If someone offers me cash for what I’m asking, I’d probably take it.”
One question in the wake of Winters Tavern closing is whether the area can support Kennedy’s 14,400-square-foot facility, which includes an indoor bar and restaurant, retail store, concert venue and outdoor beer garden.
The estimated maximum occupancy has varied from between 300 to more than 500. Tuolumne County’s population is less than 53,000, while the City of Sonora’s is less than 5,000.
Kennedy said he believes there’s enough demand from both inside and outside the area to make the complex viable, but he’s in no rush to make a deal because he doesn’t owe any money on the building.
“If the Armory sits empty for the next five years years, I’m totally fine with that,” he said. “I’m not interested in just the first deal that comes my way.”
Many people in the community have expressed hope that Kennedy’s project will draw more tourism and commerce to downtown Sonora, but the building has sat empty for more than a year.
The building was purchased by Kennedy in 2016 for $800,000, according to public records. An extensive renovation was completed late last year.
Kennedy originally planned to open the business himself under the auspices of his Trado Restaurant Corp., but that changed when he moved to Florida for his job as the chief executive officer and co-founder of a company that develops video games.
His wife and children, who currently live in Twain Harte, plan to move with him later this year to a new home they purchased in Naples, Florida.
“Right now, I’m focused on my move,” he said.
Kennedy said the listing for the Armory was taken off of LoopNet while discussions over the potential deal were ongoing, but he plans to post it again now that those talks have stalled. He also said they are working on a promotional video for the property.
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.