The restaurant closed Wednesday, three months after Sandy Ford took it over. She said she is exploring options to transfer her ownership to a new operator.

David Sanders / Arizona Daily Star 2011

A Tucson construction company that renovated a foothills restaurant three years ago took control of the restaurant Thursday after the owner fell behind in paying the remaining $30,000 of the bill.

Ventura-Pacific Development locked the doors and seized the contents and the lease at The Abbey from Brian Metzger’s Abbygrace LLC after going two months without being paid.

Metzger responded late Thursday afternoon by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in hopes of getting some wiggle room to settle the debt.

Ventura-Pacific gave no notice to Metzger or the landlord, Dick Ketchum, that it was taking the restaurant. Ketchum, who wouldn’t comment on the situation, confirmed that Metzger was current on his lease payments for the space at 6960 E. Sunrise Drive.

Ventura-Pacific’s attorney, Mark Heckele, said a Pima County Superior Court judgment last month gave the company the right to seize the property after Abbygrace did not make its March and April payments. The judgment does not stipulate any advance notice, he said.

“When it’s all said and done, what it comes down to is for all this huff and puff and blow your house down over two payments missed, we screwed up and I admit that,” Metzger said late Thursday. “But there are rules of the law that have to be followed.”

“This has been going on for two years now,” Heckele said. “If the (court) judgment that they were in default isn’t notice, I don’t know what is.”

This is the second restaurant of Metzger’s to close. In early February he closed his flagship restaurant, Jax, which he ran for more than five years on the northwest side. Two weeks later he opened Poppy Kitchen at Westin La Paloma Resort.

His company, Metzger Family Restaurants, also owns Gio Taco downtown.

Metzger said business at The Abbey has been OK since he opened more than three years ago.

“We’ve definitely had some struggles … but do I think the future of The Abbey is bright? I definitely do,” he said.

He said he is hoping he and Ventura-Pacific can work out their disagreements and he can reopen the restaurant as early as today, a possibility that Heckele said was unlikely.

“We intend at this point and time to give notice of a disposition of the collateral,” Heckele said. “Abbygrace is no longer a tenant of the space.”

This is Metzger’s second restaurant bankruptcy. He filed Chapter 11 with Jax in August after facing a mountain of debt, including $185,000 he owed to lenders and investors and nearly $170,000 in delinquent federal and state taxes. He emerged from that bankruptcy in early January as he was about to close Jax and open Poppy Kitchen.

Metzger is delinquent on more than $65,000 in federal taxes at The Abbey, which also owes Pima County $1,200 in unpaid taxes, according to county records verified by Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford.

Metzger said he is working with federal tax officials to finalize a repayment plan.

Contact Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.