Brian Metzger's foothills restaurant The Abbey is closed after a contractor that was owed $30,000 for a renovation project three years ago moved in this morning and seized the property.

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

Ventura-Pacific Development took over the property and the lease today after The Abbey's owner Abbygrace LLC fell two months behind in payments on the debt, said Ventura-Pacific's attorney Mark Heckele. Metzger's company, which also operates Gio Taco downtown and Poppy Kitchen at La Paloma Resort, had whittled the debt down to $20,000, but Heckele said with lawyers' fees that amount is back at $30,000.

“This has been going on for two years now," said Heckele, who said Ventura-Pacific and Metzger had a settlement agreement that listed the seizure as one of the possible consequences should Metzger default on the debt.

"The final caveat was we entered into a collateral assignment of lease/landlord waiver," Heckele said, which means that Ventura-Pacific now has the lease at 6960 E. Sunrise Drive.

Metzger today would not discuss specifics of the situation. He said he hoped to reach an agreement with Ventura-Pacific and open The Abbey tonight, something Heckele said would not happen.

See the story in Friday's Star.