Arts & Letters Café building for sale

The owners of Sullivan Goss — An American Gallery are downsizing their business to the art gallery at 11 E. Anapamu St. and selling the building that currently houses their popular Arts & Letters Café next door at 7 E. Anapamu St. [Note: Steve Hayes and Michael Martz are representing the owners in the offering for sale.]

After being a staple for lunchtime diners for over 20 years, Arts & Letters will cease business in its current form once the building is sold, said owner Frank Goss, who told the News-Press that his wife and business partner Tricia Sullivan is retiring and he’s continuing his work at the gallery.

“We’ve been married 32 years and Tricia started the gallery 30 years ago in Pasadena,” said Mr. Goss.

The building at 7 E. Anapamu St., a 2,400-square-foot restaurant with an attached 2,600-square-foot patio, is being marketed for $2.125 million. Steve Hayes of Hayes Commercial Group, who sold the couple the building back in 1994, is handling the sale.

The sale of a similar-sized building at 734 State St., where the Relais de Paris restaurant is located, just recorded at $2.6 million, a commercial real estate broker familiar with the transaction told the News-Press.

Running Arts & Letters and the gallery is too much work for him, said Mr. Goss, adding the restaurant will continue to serve lunch and host holiday parties until a new owner takes over and decides on its future.

With the investment in kitchen equipment and a Type 47 liquor license included in the sale of the building — a rare thing to have these days — Mr. Goss said the restaurant will probably reopen under new ownership/management.

“There aren’t a lot of those for sale these days,” said Mr. Goss of the license. He bought his for $20,000 two decades ago. Now they’re going north of 200Gs, he added.

“I think a younger chef-restaurateur might want to open for dinner” to monetize the investment, said Mr. Goss, happy to help in the transition. Access to the city’s arts/entertainment district, especially the symphony, dance and theater crowd, could bring in a solid pre-show drinks and dinner business.

The restaurant, a favorite lunchtime haunt of lawyers, judges and business deal makers, generated about 10 percent of business revenue — maybe even less, said Mr. Goss. Two of the best-selling items on the menu — which of course goes to the new owner — are the Cosmo and Tyler salads, named after the couple’s son and daughter, respectively.

The gallery, where the average painting is priced at $25,000, brings in the lion’s share of income in a town where people can clearly afford high-quality art. “You can get a John Singer Sargent … a beautiful Childe Hassam here,” said Mr. Goss, a former environment engineer who gave up his previous career to operate the gallery when the couple moved to Santa Barbara from Pasadena and launched their business.

The patio with its fountain is a great place to be when diners need a little privacy. “You can’t hear anyone’s conversation …it’s the perfect ‘white noise,’ ” said Mr. Goss of the burbling fountain, which he expects will add a lot of value to the sale.

“The customers we met at the café are first-class, wonderful, supportive people,” he said, adding he has received several hundred emails and about 50 phone calls from disappointed customers since news of the sale started to spread. “Some have dined here twice a week for 20 years, he said.

Mr. Goss said the gallery will continue to operate an active exhibition schedule and show its expansive inventory. Mr. Goss and curators Jeremy Tessmer, Susan Bush and Nathan Vonk look forward to being able to devote more resources to a smaller exhibition schedule. The curators also hope to be able to devote more time to client collection building and career development for its artists.