Commercial landlord forces tenant out with 50% spike in rent

By Kathryn Reed

A 50 percent increase in rent is forcing Wolfgang Puck Express in the Heavenly Village to close.

When the center opened about a decade ago it was the second store to open. Many have come and gone since then. Rents have always been a complaint from store operators.

“The landlord wants more money and my boss doesn’t want to pay,” restaurant manager Luis Gonzales told Lake Tahoe News.

Wolfgang Puck Express will close April 15. Photo/LTN

Today rent is $10,000 each month. The landlord wants $15,000 per month, according to Gonzales.

Gary Casteel, who owns Trans Sierra Investments, did not return phone calls. His company operates the retail operations at the South Lake Tahoe center.

While Gonzales said business has been good, it hasn’t been good enough to endure a dramatic spike in rent. It’s one of the few places in the tourist district that locals visit regularly.

With Casteel not talking, it’s not known if he has a tenant lined up.

Another restaurant is slated to open this month in the village – Base Camp Pizza Co. Contractors are working on the interior.





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Comments (46)
  1. Dude says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    That’s ridiculous!! And people wonder why the shops and restaurants int the village have to constantly raise their prices, here’s your explanation.

  2. biggerpicture says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Wonder if it has anything to do with the property owners being involved in a business partnership with Base Camp Pizza that will be opening soon just across the mall (for lack of a better descriptor)? Great way to alleviate any competition within close proximity!

  3. 30yrlocal says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    How can we move forward to create a good community that thrives with actions like this? He forced a lot of good tenants out of the factory stores at the Y (and midtown…remember the Hanes/L’eggs outlet?) before other family members managed it. Things are very sad there now but remember the good days of Capezio Shoes and other first stores? Capezio forced out when we had a killer month in snow and landlord required sales dropped a wee bit. Hanes/L’eggs left so a dumb men’s shirt place could come in which brought total decline in traffic so the leather loft and book store there had to close.

    I thought it was dumb to bring in another pizza place by the ice rink with Pucks and Blue Dog so close, but now the picture is cleared.

    The city can’t win with manipulative landlords who create an impossible atmosphere to thrive and succeed (and many landlords don’t even maintain their properties so they look nice and inviting).

  4. Tahoeadvocate says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Is Base Camp Pizza owned by the people renovating the old BLOCK hotel on Cedar Ave. into the Base Camp Tahoe hotel?

  5. Bob says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Greed, for lack of a better word is good. And if you believe that B.S….. Our national econonmy is about to collapse folks because of greed. Derivatives, credit default swaps, its like we live in a casino village where the house (whoever that is) wins most of the time. Buckle your safety belts because this roller coaster economy ride is far from over. Japan has been in recession for over 18 yrs. It’s just the beginning!

  6. biggerpicture says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Tahoeadvocate, I don’t think so. The owners of Base Camp Pizza also own Fireside Pizza at Squaw, and Rubican Pizza at Northstar.

  7. Dude says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    By the way, I have been told that after the landlord raised rents this past year he acquired a nice new Cadillac, now I’m not bemoaning his ability to purchase nice things( I’d like a new Cadillac), but what happened to a sense of business community. The businesses in the village are barely getting by some months, due to constantly increasing rents. True it is the landlord’s right to raise rents as he or she sees fit, but didn’t the village just now, ten years after its construction, reach somewhere around full occupancy. So the landlord figures when his property is at capacity it’s time to raise rents, cause there must be so many businesses beating down his door to now? ; >

    You’re right Bob, this is pure greed

  8. Raina Silva says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    I feel a little powerless in this situation. Boycotting will only hurt businesses and not the landlord. :(

  9. lou pierini says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    I knowm of no locals that go to any business down there except movies. Redeveloment for the few, and the city still spends hundreds of thousands for o and m and the parking garage, all for the landlord, go figure.

  10. hikerchick says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Could it be that forcing tenants out with huge rent increases creates huge tax write offs to offset profits somewhere else?

  11. hmmm... says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    if you were to write a book on ‘HOW NOT TO RUN A TOWN’ you could use ‘tahoe south’ as a prime example.

  12. Lisa says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    I think it’s disgusting. This is why so few local business owners can afford a prime location. Sinful!

  13. Happily Employed says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    That’s shameful. Luis is a very hardworker with a family to feed. Now what? Isn’t there anything in the lease stating the rent can only be raised a certain percent each year? No matter how busy the place is, it takes alot of pizza to make 50% more rent. Our rent at the Y went up almost 50% when I didn’t read the lease correctly, not realizing that I had to submit my intent to continue leasing 90 days prior to the lease ending. The landlord would not make any exceptions. I never made that mistake again, but we eventually closed our business when it was evident that we could no longer cover all of the debts each month. I hope our old place stays empty for a very long time.

  14. Steven says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Just like any business, the landlord can charge whatever they want, just like we can charge how ever much we want for gasoline at our stores. If you don’t want to pay that much move and/or buy your gas elsewhere. It’s the american way, charge as much as possible to maximize the bottom line.

  15. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    old Gary Casteel owns the movie theater

    the old man never was a nice guy and his kid has a worse reputation

    Swindle should be there marketing slogan

    I stoped doing business with them 20 years ago

  16. Tahoeadvocate says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Someone needs to create a dual list of names of people who help and people who hurt South Lake Tahoe/Stateline.

    I nominate Randy Lane for the “hurt” list. Anyone have a nomination for the “help” list?

  17. biggerpicture says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Help list: Bread and Broth at St. T’s

  18. 30yrlocal says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    There are a lot of good businesses in the Heavenly Village, and I do go there and recommend many of them to visitors.

    I feel badly for tenants when their landlord has them by the you know what….you want to stay there, you pay the price. Not many other nice locations to rent retail in town and not many with the foot traffic the village provides.

  19. Ken Curtzwiler says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Carson City Harley Davidson moved out of it’s location due to the rent increase also.

  20. Mike Ervin says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    wow can this town get any worse Ive always heard since it opened that the Village had high rent rates but $15k give me a break. ah its a new era of Robber Barons :(

  21. JoeStirumup says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Mike, u asked

    ‘wow can this town get any worse…’


    The town the county and the state will all get worse.

    Unless you are a government employee or pensioner that is.

  22. SmedleyButler says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Hey Joe, Mike, dogwoman, tahoeadvocate, xlocal, george, gus, and all the other ‘ hate our town’ teabag jerks.. the bus to texas is leaving shortly.. get on it.

  23. JoeStirumup says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    I don’t hate Tahoe or California, it’s the government intrusion and all the cronified capitalism it has brought on the real estate and big corporation garbage that has stifled free enterprise that I have a problem with.

    In fact, everyone seems to have a problem with it whether they recognize it or not.

    It’s history all over again.

    When successful societies let their government take control of all aspects of society the societies die off.


  24. SmedleyButler says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    all aboard!! end of discussion

  25. Garry Bowen says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Mr. Casteel is always M.I.A. when business controversy erupts. . .and Wolfgang Puck is a large enough entrepreneur (he’s a brand name that Heavenly Village probably needs) that he needn’t put up with this kind of demand. . . interesting to note that it apparently was a demand, as in “not negotiable”, as there is already a closing date. . .

    A lot of people nationally have heard of Wolfgang Puck – who’s ever heard of Gary Casteel (?) I can’t buy any of his culinary talent . . .

  26. dogwoman says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Ah. Mr Butler thinks he gets to decide when a conversation begins and ends, and who is allowed to speak and live where he chooses. . . Even those folks who weren’t involved in the current discussion! Sounds like a classic tolerant leftist to me.

  27. Robert Stiles says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    $15,000. That’s alot of dough!

  28. Beenherealongtime says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    The landlord and his attorney are the 2 most loathsome creatures I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. We built the original Cold Stone Creamery and were forced out by the unethical legal ploys of those two. They wanted us out because we had one of the original leases that had a number of flaws that “The Attorney” did not catch and left them open to litigation and I suspect that Wolfgang has an original lease also. They took much joy in destroying many people’s life savings who tried to operate a viable business in The Village. There is a undeniable principal in existance “You will reap what you sow” and yes they will…….
    Much happier now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. biggerpicture says - Posted: April 1, 2012

    Beenhere, would that attorney’s initials be L. F. ?

  30. Beenherealongtime says - Posted: April 2, 2012

    That was not hard to figure?

  31. biggerpicture says - Posted: April 2, 2012

    What I can’t figure out is how he was able to represent both sides during the redevelopment.

  32. TheTruth says - Posted: April 2, 2012

    They did the same thing a couple of years ago to Coldstone. A local family put their life savings into building up the business, and as soon as it became profitable the landlord forced them out so one of his friends could take over.

    And taxpayer money subsidizes it.

  33. hikerchick says - Posted: April 2, 2012

    Could it be that purposely creating vacancies creates tax write offs for other profitable ventures?

  34. Harold Krammer says - Posted: April 2, 2012

    Its not just the village.What happened to Adidas,why cant TJMax open and why cant Raleys open the gas station???Maybe the city should worry about that instead of the color of Christmas lights we can put up.

  35. SmallBiz says - Posted: April 5, 2012

    Did I just read that a “local” person is not recommending the businesses in the Shops at Heavenly Village because he doesn’t agree with the landlord??? Please remember there are 3 sides to every story: my version, yours and the truth. I am a local (22 yrs.)& I own a business in the shops at Heavenly Village. I try to keep my prices fair & have a fun environment for EVERYONE to shop in including our locals & tourists…We had a business in Squaw Valley which was being treated fairly by a Canadian corporation, they sold to a “local” person…within 24 hrs, we all had eviction notices taped to our doors after the”local” told us what wonderful additions we would be to their mix because we were all locally owned..taped!!!not a phone call or visit…done during the night. We left a few months after that our savings in tatters. In my dealings with this landlord, I have found them open to discussions, friendly & professional. In all my discussions with the landlord in regards to our economy, my sales & budget and the overall health of retail, I have found him very aware of how precarious the economy is nationwide & locally.But now, let’s talk about the city which is bringing in a ” mass discounter” with corporate buying power which means we will never be able to match those prices….what was the thinking there??? When we have supplied this town & state with revenues for many years..I just hope in this day and age of tit for tat, everyone can go in a business venture hoping to be dealt with in a professional manner….

  36. SmedleyButler says - Posted: April 5, 2012

    If a libertarian/bagger can screw you out of a buck, or your job, or your entire biz, they will. .. and they will expect you to respect them for their “survival of the fittest” free market skills

  37. dogwoman says - Posted: April 5, 2012

    Ah. More rude insults aimed at Conservatives by Smedley Butler. Got your clock cleaned on the Zimmerman thread so now you think you’re moving on to greener pastures? How about some intelligent discussion instead of the same old pointless nastiness?

  38. SmedleyButler says - Posted: April 5, 2012

    ” the zimmerman thread”, “clock cleaned”, “pointless nastiness”.. Were you on Today Show this a.m.?

  39. SmedleyButler says - Posted: April 5, 2012

    GeorgeHonkyZimmerman was registered as a dem. in 2002, then the brainscrub fox/rush made him what he is. 10 yrs.

  40. dogwoman says - Posted: April 5, 2012


  41. SmedleyButler says - Posted: April 5, 2012

    Some people say pathetic twits never can shut up..and I believe them.

  42. Beenherealongtime says - Posted: April 6, 2012

    Hey smallbiz-all I can say is you have been warned from experience. You may want to check with EVERY business that has opened & closed in the Village and you will get the same response: GC is an absolute unethical snake & coward! We would be very surprised in 2 years from now you are still signing his praises. Sorry to say you will be trying to salvage what little you have left.

  43. TahoeLocalBusinessOwner says - Posted: April 6, 2012

    I have been a tenant in the Heavenly Village for many years. I have had no problems that have not been quickly resolved.
    This article was poorly written from a position without all the information. I would like to hear from the owner of Wolfgang’s, not from a manager. Not one of my managers have their name on my lease and really what goes on in our meetings.
    I would also like to know how much support he has had over the years from the “locals”.
    Gary is not the “bad guy” in this situation. There are some very successful businesses in the Village that supply many jobs to locals in this community. They do this without the help of some the bloggers and writers that would rather complain and insult than actually support local business.

  44. TahoeKaren says - Posted: April 6, 2012

    “Some people say pathetic twits never can shut up..and I believe them.”

    Proved your point Smedley.

  45. Jana says - Posted: April 8, 2012

    I have been a tenant with the Casteels for 10 years. What they have done for our town is unprecedented in terms of stimulating income to our community. They took tremendous risks when developing their project and created a shopping center to rival the best in other resort towns. They are at pretty high occupancy and can charge what the market calls for. It’s called supply and demand. I will be opening a second location in their center next week. I for one an grateful for having such a beautiful center to house my business.

  46. long time local says - Posted: April 12, 2012

    After reading all these comments i feel compelled to state a few things. I have an inside look into this situation through an employee of pucks who wishes to remain anonomous.Those who support GC havent been affected or “burned” by him… yet.Cross the man and or disagree with his agenda and wait too see how “cooperative” he is.Rumer has it do some digging and you may find ownership from GC in basecamp pizza. But as far as FACTS go… there are 17 people with families whom live in tahoe who are NOW as of April 15 unemployed some after 8-10 YEARS of faithful work. Is GC going to put food on their tables or pay their bills? NO.Bottom Line.. Gary Casteel and/or Trans sierra investments has the power to extend or dissolve the lease HE/THEY create.