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Wilhelm Involved in New Restaurant Rent Dispute


SANTA ANA — Orange County restaurateur David Wilhelm is embroiled in another rent dispute, this time with the Irvine Co., the landlord of the building that houses Zuni Grill in Irvine, which is up for sale.

An Irvine Co. subsidiary filed suit on Thursday in Superior Court in Santa Ana, alleging that it is owed $75,819.22 by West Coast Restaurant Ventures Inc., which owns the restaurant that Wilhelm developed.

Wilhelm, who designed the restaurant's menu, was not available for comment Friday. Richard Spencer, an attorney for West Coast Restaurant, said the dispute was sparked by the planned sale of Zuni Grill, which serves moderately priced Southwestern cuisine.

The disagreement should be settled early next week, and the Zuni Grill sale, to an unidentified party, is scheduled to be completed "in the near future," Spencer said.

West Coast Restaurant had planned to use sale proceeds to pay the rent amount now owed to the Irvine Co.

In addition to Zuni Grill, West Coast Restaurant owns two other restaurants affiliated with Wilhelm: Bistro 201, also in Irvine, and Kachina, in Laguna Beach. Wilhelm is also affiliated with the restaurants Diva in Costa Mesa, Cafe Topaz at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and the Roxbury dinner club in Santa Ana.

West Coast Restaurant and Wilhelm made news in July when the Japanese company that is landlord at Bistro 201 padlocked the popular restaurant's doors for several days during a rent dispute that briefly landed the restaurant company in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. West Coast and Wilhelm subsequently settled the rent dispute with the building's Tokyo-based landlord, exited bankruptcy proceedings and reopened Bistro 201.

In a related announcement Friday, West Coast Restaurant said that a new restaurant, Shane at Newport Beach, would open in September in the space vacated early this year by Barbacoa, another dining venture of West Coast Restaurant. Shane at Newport Beach will be a sister restaurant to Shane Hidden in the Glen, a Bel Air restaurant. Wilhelm is not associated with the Shane locations.

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