A downtown restaurant and brewery is on the market for $3.3 million.
After less than two years in business, Stew's Sportatorium at the Lucky Spur was put up for sale this week by owners Michael Stewart, Robert Stewart, James Stewart and Scott Johnson, who say they want to focus on other businesses.
I feel like we've given them a really enjoyable place to eat, it's just time for us to move on," said Gale Stewart, the mother of Michael Stewart and the business's bookkeeper.
The owners spent $1.7 million renovating the 10,000-square-foot historic building into a local hangout for sports fans with a taste for freshly brewed beer. Before the Stewarts bought the building for $1 million in 2005, it was a vacant eyesore in the heart of downtown for about 27 years.
They plan on keeping Stew's open prior to a sale.
Stew's has had a tumultuous year, which includes a charge of embezzlement against a former manager and several complaints of unpaid wages.
The owners recently filed an embezzlement complaint with the Carson City Sheriff's Department against the former manager.
"I think it kind of hurt our feelings because we trusted him. He started with us and worked his way up," Stewart said. "It is a major blow and makes us sad."
She described the loss as "major" but declined to comment further.
Lt. Bob White said the investigation is ongoing.
The Nevada labor commissioner has received four complaints of unpaid wages from Stew's employees. Two complaints were resolved by the business - it paid about $2,000 in wages back to employees, according to the labor commissioner - one complaint is still in process and the fourth was submitted Friday.
"It shows that there is definitely a problem between the employers and some employees at that place of business," said Michael Tanchek, state labor commissioner. "We're doing our best to work with both parties to get the problems resolved."
Don Dones, a former Stew's cook, said he is still owed $1,200 in overtime. He alleges that it once took as long as a month for a paycheck to clear.
"It screwed up my bank account," he said. "I can't use my debit card anymore because my bank account was overdrawn for more than 20 days."
Dones said he's now working as a cook in another local restaurant.
Stewart said they've disputed the validity of some complaints, but still paid past employees.
"We would never not pay an employee for time worked," she said. "We've been around for awhile, and that's not our style."
Despite any past business problems, the location is a great opportunity, said Joe McCarthy, city economic development and redevelopment manager.
"The fact that the Stewarts are having a hard time downtown doesn't mean others won't be able to come in," he said.
The newly renovated brick building at the corner of North Carson and Proctor streets comes with several perks, including its historical ambiance. Many longtime Carson City residents consider the neon "Lucky Spur" sign above Carson Street a local icon.
"It's a prime location in downtown Carson City and a part of our downtown historic redevelopment area," said Bob Fredlund, a real estate listing agent. "The brewery is also a unique feature."
In late 2004, the Nevada Gaming Commission granted the property a nonrestricted gaming license, which is worth millions to casino operators. The city has an ordinance requiring new gaming properties to build a 100-room hotel.
Fredlund said he and commercial agent Larry Messina have received interest from buyers.
McCarthy said the financial risk the Stewart family took at 302 N. Carson St. has made the spot viable for another operator. In late 2004, the Stewarts were awarded $100,000 in redevelopment funding for the remodeling of the building to put it back into a commercial use.
Because of the conditions of the incentive funding, the city will be reimbursed from the sale.
Tom Johnson, a broker with Sperry Van Ness, doesn't see the sale as hurting downtown. He owns the building across the street from Stew's, where a new oriental restaurant is opening this weekend.
"It'll be a great place for someone, if they want to be in that business - but you better know what you're doing," he said.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
Lucky Spur timeline:
• The building is believed to have been constructed in the 1880s, housing various businesses, such as a nightclub, cobbler and the Silver Spur Casino
• About 1975 it opened as the Lucky Spur Casino
• In 1978 or 1979, the Lucky Spur closed
• In late 2004, the Nevada Gaming Commission granted the property a nonrestricted gaming license
• Stew's LLC entered into a contract to purchase the former Lucky Spur, 302 and 306 N. Carson St., for $1 million from George Halyak
• Michael Stewart, Robert Stewart, James Stewart and Scott Johnson spent $1.7 million renovating the building
• In June 2005, Stew's Sportatorium at the Lucky Spur opened with a brewery, sports bar, 25 slot machines, a restaurant, game room and outdoor patio
• In August 2005, Stew's LLC purchased the building
• In June 2006, Stew's was fined by the state for failing to make unemployment insurance contributions for its employees. The judgment entered in Carson District Court ordered Spur's owners to pay the state $17,919 in back employment security contributions
• In 2007, the owners filed an embezzlement complaint against a former manager. The amount was called, "major"
• Now, the owners put the property on the market for $3.3 million to focus on other businesses. The Stewarts also own a drafting business and plumbing business. For more information on the sale, contact agents Bob Fredlund, at Coldwell Banker Best Sellers, or Larry Messina, at Coldwell Banker Commercial Premier Brokers.
- Source: Appeal records; Guy Rocha, state archivist; Stewart family