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Scalo faces serious financial problems, documents show

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Scalo Northern Italian Grill, which has been closed for about a month, is facing serious financial issues, according to several public documents.

Its landlord, Nob Hill Investors, LLC, filed a complaint in District Court in Bernalillo County alleging the restaurant is behind on rent; the business that owns Scalo, Esperanza Enterprises, is facing three federal tax liens totaling more than $200,000; and Jane Fertig, the estranged wife of Scalo owner Steve Paternoster, has petitioned District Court for control of the restaurant, alleging that she had to change the locks because Paternoster had been taking money from the cash registers, from employees’ tips and had been writing himself checks from the business account.

However, Ken Gattas, restaurant manager for Scalo, on Monday reiterated what he told the Journal in a phone interview last week — that the landmark restaurant will reopen soon despite remodeling setbacks after a waterline break that closed the restaurant just before the holidays.

“We are trying to get the flooring finished as we speak,” Gattas said. “But we are definitely pushing for opening up the business as soon as possible.”

Gattas would not comment on the restaurant’s financial status but he did confirm that Fertig was in charge of the restaurant and had been for some time.

“Jane is who I’ve been working with, and I think she is the most visible at the business,” he said.

Neither Paternoster or Fertig could be reached for comment.

Fertig filed an emergency motion on Dec. 18 for exclusive control of the business due to what she said was her ex-husband’s lack of interest in running the restaurant. The document states that Paternoster’s performance as general manager “dropped off completely” in the spring of 2017.

Since that time, Paternoster has been seen by employees ingesting what appeared to be cocaine during work hours, according to the petition.

Fertig said in the petition that several Scalo employees have left the business, including the head chef, because of grievances with Paternoster.

Fertig also said in the petition that Paternoster would show up to the business and make scenes in front of the staff and patrons.

Fertig said in the affidavit that she and her ex-husband owe a significant amount of money to the landlord, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and New Mexico Taxation and Revenue, who are all willing to work with Fertig as long as she runs the business.

“The restaurant has been closed for approximately one week and unless I gain control of it immediately, liens will be foreclosed upon and I will have no money to support myself or our children, and over 70 employees will lose their jobs,” Fertig said in court on Dec. 17.

On Dec. 27, Nob Hill Investors LLC, filed a complaint in District Court against Esperanza Enterprises, Inc., alleging the restaurant is behind on rent. The complaint further states that Esperanza Enterprises must vacate the leased premises within three days from the date of notice to quit or pay the entire rent and other charges due. The document does not say how much Nob Hill is owed.

The Bernalillo County Clerk website lists three separate notices of federal tax liens against Esperanza Enterprises Inc. and Scalo Northern Italian Grill. That includes an $89,144 assessment in July 2017, a $105,520 assessment in September 2017, and a $49,363 assessment in July 2018. Those liens correspond to unpaid taxes dating from September 2014 to March 2018.

The County Clerk’s Office has no “release” listings, or record of resolution, for any of those tax debts.

Gattas said he had no knowledge of the tax debts.

On top of his looming financial problems, Paternoster has an active bench warrant out for his arrest for driving with a suspended license in Torrance County, which was issued to him in September 2018. His suspended license stems from a DWI Paternoster received in May 2013.