Walk-in retail at a downtown Riverside business has been interrupted after a portion of the building’s façade gave way last week, showering the sidewalk with bricks.
A passerby phoned police just after 4 a.m. on July 20 to report the damage to the storefront of Empanadus, 7 E. Burlington St. No one was injured when the façade gave way.
The village placed barricades around the storefront, and the store’s walk-in retail operations have been suspended until the village can ensure that the façade is stable.
The business itself remains open, however, for catering, deliveries and pickups via a side door.
“At this point we’re waiting for the owner to get appropriate scaffolding up to secure the area,” said Riverside Community Development Director Sonya Abt on July 24. “Then we can open the sidewalk.”
The property is owned by a real estate trust and managed by Reliable Management, a Riverside-based firm. A man who identified himself in a phone interview as Tony LaMantia, a sales agent for Reliable Management, told the Landmark that the façade would be fixed “in a few days.”
He also claimed the façade of the building had been struck by lightning.
Riverside Fire Chief Matthew Buckley stated there was no evidence of a lightning strike.
“We checked that entire structure that morning,” said Buckley, who added that lightning strikes tend to leave scorch marks. “There was no sign of anything.”
Empanadus owner Kevin Schamber said the bulk of his business is carryout and delivery for catering, but the issue with the façade has taken a big bite out his walk-in business.
“As long as customers know they can call ahead, we’re making it work,” Schamber said. “But some customers don’t want to go through that.”
Schamber estimated that once work to repair the facade begins, it could take up to a week to complete. On Monday morning, four days after the bricks gave way, he wasn’t sure when things would start moving.
“The question is, when will they start the work?” Schamber said.
Abt on Monday afternoon said a contractor had submitted a building permit application to begin repairs, and she directed the contractor to erect scaffolding immediately. It was slated to go up on July 25, Abt said.
“I told him if we don’t see progress, we’d be issuing daily citations,” Abt said.
The building where Empanadus rents space has been a source of complaints from the village of Riverside in recent years.
In 2015, the village sued Reliable Management to force the company to install a fire alarm system in the building, which houses both commercial and residential tenants. The suit followed a year after a local adjudicator issuing the firm a citation for failing to maintain an active fire alarm system.
The firm subsequently installed a working fire alarm system, Abt said.
For more than a year now, she added, the village has been trying to get Reliable Management to make improvements to the paved areas and a dumpster enclosure that are part of the property, located east of the building.