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Punk's Backyard Grill Closes at Annapolis Mall

The restaurant's owners say they were unable to renegotiate their lease.

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."

Meghan January 07, 2013 at 10:13 PM
SAVE PUNK'S!
Mary Lou January 08, 2013 at 02:16 AM
I rarely venture to the mall at night unless it is to go to Punk's because it does not feel that safe for a single woman at night. I would make an exception to meet family or friends for dinner and often wound up doing a bit of shopping too. Punk's drew people to the mall because of their good food at a reasonable price. How short-sighted of the mall management to not take that into account! I wish Sheila and her partners only the best in the future. They will succeed again wherever they go, so please be sure to let us know where and when and we will follow! Thanks for all the great food and good service these past four years.
Eileen Williams January 08, 2013 at 12:44 PM
This is unbelievablel!!! I will miss Punk's! Their food and atmosphere were like no other in Annapolis. Finally, good food at a good price. Then the corporate monsters come along.......it boils down to GREED! Shame on you Westfield Mall!!!!!!!!!
W. L. January 08, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Just another big corporation getting rid of the small business owner. Our society today!! Everyone who willl miss them should write to Westfield, Los Angeles and Westfield Mall Management.
Greg Brennan January 08, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Punk's was the only reason I went to that mall, though I might hit a store or two before or after eating. Too bad for them.
Bobbi Farquhar January 08, 2013 at 04:09 PM
I don't venture to the Westfield Mall often...I hate the layout, I found the charm and atmosphere of PUNK's a place that I'd meet friends, stop by alone or with my family. The food was always great, price points reasonable and the atmosphere was always fun and fresh. Terrible thing to put more value on money than your community.
Rick Wall January 08, 2013 at 05:01 PM
ABSOLUTELY our favorite place to dine in Annapolis... such friendly staff, great food and by far the BEST selection of craft beer in the area. You will be missed, but never forgotten! Now... what do I do with the $40 Punk's gift card I got for Christmas??? This is a serious problem.
Kerri January 08, 2013 at 11:46 PM
This makes me so sad. The Ruby Tuesdays of the world can afford to pay their rent but the real "American dream" of college graduates using their training and living their dream, all while using fresh local ingredients, get hosed! I hope Sheila and Dave can find another location. I miss Punk's dearly.
Karen January 10, 2013 at 07:21 PM
My entire family loves Punks, Westfield has made a terrible mistake. This is a very special and creative eating establishment in the Annapolis area. Hopefully they can relocate to a more friendly location. Support Punks!!!
melanie arena January 10, 2013 at 10:40 PM
No reason to go to the mall now, what a huge loss. Westfield blew it.
Tyson Heck January 13, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Overhanging red tape from the corporate overlord, Westfield. Way to work on keeping that small business around, morons. Hopefully Punks will land on its feet somewhere that doesn't involve mindless mall politics.

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