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New owner Underhill plans to revive The Kress
In some good news for Yuma's historic downtown and for the community's nightlife, The Kress is under new ownership.
After sitting mostly empty for a year, the historic building at 284 S. Main St. has been purchased by Underhill Transfer Co., confirmed Clint Underhill, vice president of the company.
Underhill purchased the property for $3 million from AEA Federal Credit Union, which had foreclosed on the building and shut it down early on Jan. 1 after revelers had rung in the New Year in the lounge on the third floor.
Underhill said Thursday that plans are to operate the building much as it had been, with Da Boyz continuing to operate an Italian restaurant on the first floor. The Underhills plan to operate a nightclub on the weekends on the third floor, opening it up to banquets, meetings and special events during the day and weekday evenings.
As for the rooftop, Underhill envisions a nice place people can relax, carry on a conversation and enjoy the night sky over the city.
“It definitely will be a good place to have a good time. It's just a matter of time.”
For one thing, the new ownership will have to reapply for a liquor license since it's been so long. Staff will have to be hired and trained. But first, the property will need a good cleaning from ceiling to floor after sitting vacant for a year.
It likely will be the spring of 2013 before the establishment will be ready to open, Underhill said.
Meanwhile, it's business as usual for Da Boyz, which had remained open over the last year.
It is, however, nice to have ownership of the building settled, said Randal Dawson, whose wife, Christine, operates the restaurant. “We're looking forward to having something upstairs again.”
It's a perfect relationship, Underhill said, explaining that the company already is the landlord for Dawson's other restaurant in the Foothills.
“She definitely has a good product,” he said of Dawson. “This is a perfect fit. We hope to provide her some business upstairs.”
Underhill said the company was interested in The Kress to complement its other hospitality properties: the Microtel Hotel in the Foothills and Chretin's Restaurant in Yuma.
“It's the third corner of the triangle,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to working out the details.
Updates will start appearing on TheKress.com in the coming weeks.
The Kress was purchased in mid-2007 by Frank Ruiz for $1.9 million, according to the Yuma County Assessor's Office. After spending millions of dollars to renovate the building, he opened the nightclub in 2010. Just four months later, Ruiz's entity, Desert Best Enterprises, filed for bankruptcy.
AEA acquired the deed to the property in a trustee sale in March of this year.
Meanwhile, Ruiz was sentenced in April to two years in federal prison for his role in the misuse of AEA funds that cost the financial institution millions of dollars in bad loans, including his loans for The Kress. As a result of the losses, AEA has been in conservatorship for two years.
Ruiz' co-defendant, Bill Liddle, former head of AEA's commercial loan department, was sentenced to 15 years after being found guilty of 54 counts of fraud and money laundering in the case.
City Administrator Greg Wilkinson said he's happy to see the case settled and the property in the hands of a local businessman.
“It will be a welcome addition to the downtown area once it reopens.”