In a move that surprised and saddened its customers, Punk's Backyard Grill announced on Sunday that it had served its final burgers and beers at the Westfield Annapolis mall.
"We are sad to announce that today, Sunday, January 6th, is Punk's final day of business," the company wrote on its Facebook page. "We are tremendously grateful to all of our loyal customers and to the Annapolis community. Thank you all for making our four years of business so fun, exciting and delicious."
Sheila Laderberg, Dave McCabe and Jeffrey Sloan opened the restaurant in 2009. The trio came up with the idea for the casual dining restaurant whose dining room mimicked an outdoor picnic area after meeting at Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
When asked about the short notice, Laderberg said, "We found out on Friday. Basically the short version is that it was an issue with our landlord, and we found out on Friday."
The issue was over their lease, which was originally negotiated with Westfield's corporate offices in Los Angeles.
"The story is that we signed our lease in early 2008 before the bottom dropped out of the economy," Laderberg said. "We tried just tirelessly all these past four years to get Westfield to give us a fair rewrite."
Laderberg said they repeatedly told mall officials they could no longer afford their rent.
"This fall we were told by local mall people that they wanted us to stay, and they were working on putting together an affordable lease for us," Laderberg said.
But on Friday she and her co-owners got a surprising notice. There would be no new lease, and they would be evicted on Jan. 14.
"We had no choice but to close," Laderberg said. "The situation was current in our everyday life, but the fact that the deal didn't go through after it seemed like it was going to happen, that was pretty shocking to us."
Westfield's corporate offices did not return Patch's request for comment about the restaurant's issues in renegotiating its lease. Christi Wallace, a spokeswoman for Westfield Annapolis mall, said there is no tenant lined up to replace Punk's yet.
Laderberg said the group has no plans as yet to reopen the restaurant in another location, saying "we've got a lot to deal with here."
The announcement of the restaurant's closing had garnered more than 200 comments on its Facebook page by Tuesday afternoon.
"This is a nightmare, really," Scott Furniss wrote.
"How am I going to explain this to my children?! I'm a grown man and I feel like crying," Tony Minetola wrote. "I love you guys, and I hope you have something new in the works already. You are great at what you do."
Laderberg called the support overwhelming.
"We always knew that we had an amazing customer base ... We knew so many of them personally, that's one of things that made this such a great experience," Laderberg said. "It's just really sad to me that we won't be open to be a part of the community in this way anymore."