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Trattorria Acqua saved at 11th hour

It was supposed to be Trattoria Acqua’s last day in business at 1298 Prospect St. on March 13. But thanks to an “llth hour” deal struck between owner Michael McGeath and his landlord, restaurant employees still have their jobs today.

Lease renegotiations between the restaurant owner and landlords Don Allison and Bill Zonker had broken down a few weeks ago, prompting the restaurant to announce it was closing and seeking another La Jolla site.

“We went and made a final plea to the landlord to reconsider and he came up with some ideas he thought we needed to do, so we’re going to be here for another six years,” said Michael McGeath who owns Trattoria along with his wife Victoria.

McGeath said the renegotiation truly was last-minute.

“We had a staff meeting at 3 p.m. Saturday with papers for unemployment and resumes we had done for our 41 employees,” he said Monday morning. “The landlord came back to us at 2 p.m. with a lease we could sign. They’re all working today instead of down at the unemployment line.”

McGeath credited local community support for saving his Village business.

“A lot of the reason we were able to work something out was the phenomenal support we had from local La Jollans,” he said. “The last two weeks were two of the busiest weeks in our 16 years here.”

There was a public outcry asking the restaurant to stay.

“People were coming in and saying, ‘Please don’t close, try to do something with your landlord to stay,’ ” McGeath said, adding that people were telling him they’d had their first date in his restaurant or experienced some other personal milestone event there.

At 8:30 a.m. the day his restaurant was to close, a couple came in with a baby in a stroller to take a picture inside of the table by the window where they’d become engaged.

Sentiment like that apparently “drove” the reconciliation between tenant and landlord.

“I truly believe it was the populace in the Village that convinced both Don and I that we had to stay,” said McGeath. “He felt the same way, that there really wasn’t anything we couldn’t eventually work out.”