“The legal proceedings continue; thus, it would be premature for me to comment further on the matter,” said Antioch City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland. “However, the city remains interested in having a viable establishment at the marina to enhance the Rivertown area and the entire community.”
According to Nerland, Romero, who has owned the restaurant since 1995, filed for bankruptcy in May prior to a planned foreclosure by Wells Fargo Bank. Romero stopped payment on the lease while the bankruptcy was playing out.
“Ms. Romero did not assume the lease in the bankruptcy proceeding, and the bankruptcy court entered an order declaring the lease rejected, and requiring her to surrender possession of Humphrey’s Restaurant by Dec. 30, 2012,” Nerland said.
Romero did not return calls seeking comment, but in court documents cited the economic downturn, a failed attempt to sell the business in 2010 and the opening of competing businesses in the area as reasons for the bankruptcy.
“I have had many successful years of operations until the recent economic downturn and the unfair competition created by the city of Antioch in that the city now owns and operates two competing banquet halls in the city of Antioch,” Romero wrote in the document.
She purchased the restaurant in 1995, roughly five years after it opened at 1 Marina Plaza in Antioch. Its name was inspired by the humpback whale Humphrey, which swam into the Delta in 1985.
According to Romero’s granddaughter, Ashley Lowrey of Antioch, the dissolution of the business was hard on the family: “It was a sad closure. I’m very bitter about it. As far as Humphrey’s, we will always have great memories.”
As of December, Romero owed the city about $72,000 in back rent and taxes in addition to sewer and property taxes for the period of June to December of this year, according to Nerland.
Although the future of the restaurant remains in limbo while legal proceedings play out, city leaders agree seeing the restaurant fail was sad, but the restaurant provides a unique location for its future owners.
“I’ve heard many ideas on what type of restaurant should occupy the building,” said City Councilman Tony Tiscareno. “Personally, I prefer a family-owned restaurant that continues the Rivertown theme that caters to family dining. But whoever decides to take a run at this business needs to be patient and work through the growing pains.”
Tuesday morning, the restaurant’s parking lot sat nearly empty. Two “Closed” signs were affixed to the doors of the restaurant once known for its fresh seafood, lively bar and banquet rooms that hosted private parties.
“The Sunday brunch was fantastic, but they stopped having that,” said Kirk Conkel as he walked his two dogs past the vacant building. “I never had the dinner meals, but it was a nice place. I’ll miss it.”