Food: Deal to buy Schellville Grill sours

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Matthew Nagan has been cooking in Schellville for 17 years.

For about five of those years, the graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park has wanted to sell his Schellville Grill at 22900 Broadway so he can move to Italy and enjoy his Casa Zio in Tuscany, an old house he and his sister have developed into a home and inn.

Nagan first burst onto the Sonoma food scene with his Matthew’s Mustards, which he sold out of his van to adoring cooks and grocery stores, many of whom wish he had never stopped producing the condiment.

When he took over the Highway 12 location of the former Ford’s Café in 2002, some of his many ranch and viticulture regulars – with names like Sangiacomo, Mulas and Millerick – wondered why he was offering herbed sauce on his biscuits instead of gravy with chicken or pork drippings.

But those ranchers came around, and their families are still faithful customers, along with Sonoma Raceway fans and winery managers.

Recently, Nagan has been known for three things: his Schellville Grill segment on chef Guy Fieri’s Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”; his meat smoker outside the restaurant on Arnold Drive near the Schell-Vista Fire Station; and his several attempts and escrows to sell the restaurant and his stationary mobile home on the property.

Suzette and Jeff Tyler were the latest potential buyers of the Schellville Grill. They currently own Palooza Brewery and Gastropub in Kenwood and sell food at the Sonoma Stompers baseball games at Arnold Field. The Tylers started out with a cart selling Chicago-style hot dogs, bought a second one, then a food truck – and now own Palooza at the site of the former Doce Lunas in the Kenwood shopping center.

Knowing of Nagan’s interest in selling the Schellville Grill, the Tylers made an offer recently and Nagan accepted. The price was not disclosed, though in November of 2018 Nagan had listed the restaurant for $1.2 million.

But few property deals go off without a hitch – and this one is no different. One big point of contention: A parking lot adjacent to the restaurant.

Jeff Tyler now says that he and his wife were under the impression that the adjacent parking lot was part of the restaurant transaction, as customers have been using the lot for decades. Tyler later learned that Caltrans actually owns the parking lot, which Tyler says he has now leased from state transportation department to the tune of about $2,000 per month.

Tyler also says there was confusion over whether the property was zoned for commercial use; it is in fact zoned agricultural, according to county records. Not only that, but it turns out its water services run on septic and well. “We hoped that public water and sewer would come here when the Schell-Vista fire station was built,” Nagan told the Index-Tribune, “but, no, that didn’t happen.”

At the end of June, the Tylers informed Nagan they want out of the deal and demanded their appraisal, inspection and other fees reimbursed – about $10,000.

“If funds are not delivered by this (June 28) deadline, a fence will be placed around the parking area immediately,” the Tylers’ real-estate representative Dolores Gamba wrote to Nagan June 26.

Two weeks ago the Tylers erected a chain link fence around the parking lot to prevent Nagan’s customers from parking there.

The Tylers say that if Nagan will reimburse their fees, or if he agrees to sublease the lot from them for $2,000 per month, they will have the fence removed.

Tom and Becky Larson have offered Schellville Grill customers to park on their property across from the restaurant. On a recent Saturday, the Grill’s dining room and patio were packed with farming families and several people who had seen a new screening of Guy Fieri’s Schellville Grill episode.

“I think Matt’s just doing this as a publicity stunt,” said Tyler. “I just want out of it.”

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