Almanac

News - January 9, 2013

British Bankers Club deal in Menlo Park falls through

by Sandy Brundage

Kill the social media buzz: A former Facebook executive has pulled out of a plan to reopen the landmark British Bankers Club in Menlo Park.

The deal fell apart about a month ago, according to landlord Dennis Grimsman.

As the Almanac first reported, Owen Van Natta, a social media entrepreneur, applied for a new liquor license for the restaurant through the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control earlier this year, and filed for federal registration of the BBC trademark in March.

Mr. Van Natta pulled out after due diligence indicated that "certain contingencies in the deal" wouldn't pan out, Mr. Grimsman said.

In a case of unfortunate timing, the new owners of Kepler's Books and Magazines — Praveen Madan and Christin Evans — approached the landlord about leasing the space for the bookstore early last year.

"I was taken aback — Kepler's, in here?" Mr. Grimsman said. "(They) really wanted it, but I had just signed the deal with Owen."

He said he's looking for a quality tenant. "The building deserves it. I'm going to hold out until I get someone good. Someone with common sense."

Before becoming the BCC, the building at 1090 El Camino Real housed Menlo Park's administrative and police departments. In more recent years the restaurant's rowdy reputation took a turn toward infamous after a busboy and a cook were arrested for sexually assaulting two women at the club in 2010. According to police, the men followed the women to an upstairs room in the club. Both pleaded guilty to related charges.

Former owners Lance White and Richard Eldridge initially said the BBC had closed for remodeling in January 2012, but eventually announced online that it would not reopen.

Mr. Van Natta did not respond to requests for comment.

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