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State Shuts Down Popular Columbia Restaurant And Bar

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Columbia, CA — With an eviction notice in hand, state park officials terminated their contract with the concessionaires of Christopher’s at the City Hotel and What Cheer Saloon.

What owner George Segarini, a former executive director to the Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce for 20 years, and his son thought was going to be a meeting to discuss an ongoing utility bill problem on Friday, ended with the business’s doors being locked.

“We were surprised, shocked. We thought we were in negotiation with the state,” recounts Segarini.

He owns the business with his son, and chef, Christopher.

Since signing a two-year contract with the state four and a half years ago, to open at Columbia State Park, there has been an ongoing conflict regarding the PG&E gas and electric bill, prompting a switch to a month to month contract. The discrepancy had to do with the breakdown of the utility bill.

“We were trying to get them to separate the restaurant from the hotel which is all in one building. It was all on the same utility bill. Evidently, I guess, they felt it was going to cost too much money to do that.”

While he admits they were around $20,000 behind on their utility payments, he says because they were in the park, the bills went to state.

“We were getting our bills late,” argues Segarini. “It was supposed to be on a monthly basis, but the state often waited two or three months before they got the billing to us, which meant a huge utility bill.”

Although there is a 30-day notice included in the contract, according to Segarini, the state would not budge and ordered them out.

“We pleaded with them that Mother’s Day was coming up and that we had some special take out brunch items for the holiday and brought in product, but they didn’t see it that way and closed us down,” said Segarini disparagingly. “Usually, you can continue doing business while you’re planning to move out. So, that was really discouraging to me personally that we couldn’t even do that.”

That alone is a loss of thousands of dollars for a business that was already hurting due to the state’s coronavirus pandemic restrictions, and with take-out orders only allowing them to break even.   Segarini also notes that they are still on the hook for the outstanding utility bills, which will be hard to pay without generating any revenue. Regarding any legal action, he says they are looking at that, but “it’s hard to go up against the state.”

While talking to Clarke Broadcasting via cell phone, Segarini was at the business and will be spending several days clearing out the restaurant and bar, including removing a stove and some large freezers. To show appreciation for former customers and friends who have been helping, they will be treated to the remaining fresh produce. Segarini says his sincere thanks go out to the public for their patronage and support for so many years.

When asked about a future restaurant? “Oh, God,” laughs Segarini, “Not right now. My reaction right now is no.”

Clarke Broadcasting has not been able to reach the state for comment on the eviction.

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