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Restaurateur Nick LaVecchia closes downtown Gastonia restaurant

Restaurateur Nick LaVecchia on Tuesday night closed his Nick’s Steak and Taphouse in the historic Webb Theater building in downtown Gastonia.

City officials announced the closing on Wednesday, saying the closure “effectively terminates” LaVecchia’s lease with the city, which owns the Webb Theater building.

LaVecchia began leasing the building from the city in August 2010 and opened the restaurant in April 2011.

LaVecchia couldn’t be reached Wednesday.

City spokeswoman Rachel Bagley told the Observer that LaVecchia has said he wanted to spend more time with his family “and focus on them for a while.”

The Gaston Gazette reported on Jan. 12 that Levecchia’s wife, Regina Estelle LaVecchia, was arrested Jan. 10 and faces felony drug charges. She is accused of selling cocaine to a police informant at a downtown location in May, but police did not reveal exactly where, the Gazette reported.

According to a search of court records conducted by the Observer, Regina LaVecchia was charged with four felonies in connection with a May 3 offense. She was charged with selling drugs, delivering drugs, and maintaining a vehicle for the purpose of selling drugs. She was also charged with dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of a school.

In a news release about the restaurant closing this week, the city said it provided Nick LaVecchia with a $700,000, federally funded grant allowance to renovate the building, which had been used as city government office and warehouse space. The city purchased the building in 1995 from a private owner.

The grant allowance let Nick LaVecchia plan and oversee the renovation of the building, while the city reviewed, approved and paid for the renovation cost, according to the news release. At all times during the renovation, the city managed the grant fund and expenditures.

The terms of Nick LaVecchia’s lease with the city required a monthly payment of $6,875 for 10 years (120 months) plus a balloon payment of about $61,000 at the end of the lease. At that time, the building would have become Nick LaVecchia’s.

With the termination of the lease, the city said it retains ownership of the building, which was originally valued at $170,000 and now is valued at more than $400,000.

Nick LaVecchia has paid about $319,000 in lease payments and $130,000 in utility payments, the city said. He owes the city about $14,000 in lease payments for December and January.

City officials said they will begin accepting and reviewing proposals for a full-service restaurant to replace Nick’s Steak and Taphouse

“The historic Webb Theater building is a great restaurant location that’s beautiful inside and out,” City Manager Ed Munn said in the release. “It’s important to the development of Downtown Gastonia, so we’ll be looking for a full-service restaurant that can add to the growth and vitality our downtown is experiencing and which Nick’s Restaurant helped grow.”

Munn said that before Nick LaVecchia’s restaurant opened, “that building wasn’t really bringing people downtown or generating any economic activity. Nick’s Restaurant brought people downtown regularly who might not otherwise come downtown, which helped our other downtown businesses grow and prosper.

“We want the next restaurant that occupies that building to help continue that trend,” Munn said. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Maria David contributed.

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