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High Rent, Unexpected Layoffs Trail Mediterranean Grill's Last Days

While a misunderstanding compounded difficulties during the familiar restaurant's final days, the decision to sell appears to be because of high lease costs.

It’s been a rough week for the staff at the Mediterranean Grill, seeing as how almost all of them have been laid off.

According to the former owner of the restaurant, Mike Baffa, this was never intended to happen.

Baffa said he was under the impression the Mediterranean Grill's new owners would keep the business operational for a while longer, and that they would also keep the staff on board.

“Part of the deal was for keeping the employees,” said Baffa, who also said that is why he sold his restaurant to the owners of Fairfield-based  and not another interested buyer. He said he lowered the price by $20,000 primarily because he thought the new owners would keep his staff employed. He said this was something of a gentleman's agreement, and had not been written into the actual contract.

“Sunday was a rough day,” he said. “We would have loved to have a party and say goodbye to our customers, and introduce the new owners and all that, but they closed it in no time.”

“The ‘handshake deal,’ was that I was gonna give them a key and they were gonna give me a check. But that’s not how it went down at closing time, which is their choice,” said Baffa. 

About 10 employees were let go when the new owners decided to ; Baffa hired two former staff -including manager Rahim Ouloul (pictured) who has worked at the same location, different restaurants, for 15 years- to work at his other restaurant, Fairfield Flip Side. Rahim Ouloul

“[I] Didn’t lose [the Mediterranean Grill], didn’t walk away from it. Maybe [the new owners] did have to do what they did.”

Wilton just too expensive

Despite the apparent misunderstanding, Baffa remained optimistic, saying he wanted to open a new restaurant, which would also let him hire his old staff back. However, when asked, Baffa said Wilton is not a viable location, and that he would not set up shop here again. 

“I wouldn’t go to Wilton again. It’s a great town, but there are no spots! I had the best location in town…[and] I couldn’t get the deal I wanted on the lease. [The landlords] keep wanting more and more money, and I’m like I can barely make it as it is,” he said. Baffa had been the business' owner for nine years.

In the restaurant business, “you only have about five hours to make money—if you’re lucky.”But in Wilton, it seems even shorter, sometimes:  “It starts at 7:30 p.m. and ends at 8:30 p.m,” he said, perhaps only half-serious.

“So for five hours a day, you’re generating income, but [money] is going out [the door] 24 hours a day—gas, money, electric, [and] the landlord’s squeezing you.”

“But maybe [the new owners] know something I don’t; maybe they’ll get a nice place going.”

Baffa said his customers can email him to keep themselves updated on where the staff is going to be employed at next.

“We emailed all out customers, so if anyone wants to know where the staff ends up, they can email me at BaffaPCD@hotmail.com. Once I find out where everybody is we’ll send out an email,” he said.

Patch tried contacting Maria Petresis, whom Patch was directed to after calling Andro’s Restaurant, but she did not return the phone call as of early last evening. 

David Young October 20, 2011 at 01:22 PM
This town and the landlords have to realize there is no more money in our piggy banks. Bacept for real estateffa's points are spot on. I supported that place since it first opened. Rents are off the charts. Empty houses abound...stores are closing except for real estate ans satellite banks. Oh yeah...and nail salons and pizza parlours.
EMR October 20, 2011 at 02:12 PM
why are we putting more banks in this town? banks are why main street is in such a big decline. got a blast out of our local banker who said that they bought "widgets and things" from a now closed Keelers. that's a sad state of affairs.
Mose Hazo October 20, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Perhaps Wilton will decide to be a tourist attraction "Ghost Town" with nothing but empty storefronts and no conveniences unless you want your nails done for your 10 year old; visit another bank; or have political parties rent the space year round for elections. Someday, somehow this town needs to communicate with the landlords about the crisis they are building for Wilton. We lack sufficient businesses now for our tax base so the required money will have to come from somewhere and that is real estate (your homes). This is a serious problem and not one to be pushed down the road.
S.Dogood October 21, 2011 at 12:13 AM
Another example of how Toni and her cronies have their collective heads in the clouds. No wait a minute-there's no clouds, just blue skies and sunshine. We need political reform in this town-the old guard has been asleep too long and we need leaders will to tackle tough issues-not just line up for photo op's.
EMR October 21, 2011 at 12:39 AM
well, at least we have the movie stars with stop signs and scenic roads ;-)
Jlo October 21, 2011 at 03:13 AM
and retarded rants on 880AM
Jlo October 21, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Guys this is capitalism. All the McMansions that have sprung up in Wilton over the past 10 years signify easy money. In turn the business folk looking for the quick buck follow, buy up land and jack up prices. Since these folk are reactive rather than proactive to the economy they keep the rents jacked until enough people leave that they are threatened or outright shut down. Then when it is apparent that they are f**ked they are kind enough to lower the rents. Given the recent events I predict rents to lower in the next 2 years, but we will probably lose some other good businesses before that happens.
Mike75 October 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM
I'm all for the nail salons and banks. It beats having vacant storefronts. But seriously, small businesses open and close all the time. With the economy the way it is right now, the recent closings shouldn't be all that surprising.
Mose Hazo October 21, 2011 at 06:42 PM
Of course we all know and accept capitalism and realities of the local economy, but there has to be a concerted effort to communicate with those landlords about the disasterous effects of their higher than norm square footage costs. Small retailers and unique shops cannot pay such rents for too long. In some ways, this is similar to what happened in Westport when chain retailers could afford to move in while the local businesses closed. We need to have the board of selectmen and the Chamber of Commerce communicate Wilton's fiscal concerns and the future viability of a town center.

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