Abandoned restaurant's premises turn into site for used-car sales Residents complain, but practice is legal

August 23, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

At the peak of its popularity, Berger's Colonial Inn served dinners, played host to banquets and maintained a classy atmosphere that made the restaurant the main nightspot for Pasadena residents.

Now, you can pull onto the lot and buy a 1987 Chevy Blazer with a V-8 engine and 98,642 miles for $8,300. Or cart away a 20-foot 1987 Stinger powerboat with 154 hours on its engine.

Since the Lake Shore restaurant on Mountain Road closed several years ago, the half-acre lot of the large red building has become a showcase for used cars and boats.

"Some people took their dates there or went after the prom," recalled Janine Macmillan, who lives across from Berger's. "Now, I think it's terrible that it got turned into a used-car lot. I think it just makes it look bad."

A handful of residents have complained about the number of cars and boats that have lined the parking lot of the empty restaurant.

But as long as the vehicles are properly registered and tagged, the practice is not illegal, said County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond.

"It's up to the owner to tell them to take their cars off his lot," he said.

Chris Blankenship, who works at the Exxon service station next to Berger's, said he has seen sellers and buyers make deals on the lot.

"Sometimes they'll have eight or nine cars lined up," said the 21-year-old attendant.

"That's the only thing that's been going on."

At one time, for many families, the restaurant meant an elegant evening out.

Cliff Phelps, owner of Phelps' Package Liquors on Mountain Road, and a resident of Pasadena for most of his 59 years, remembers when Ray Berger opened the building as a liquor store in 1946.

After Berger died suddenly, Bob Floyd bought the store, Phelps said, converting it into a restaurant by installing a kitchen, enlarging the building to seat 265 and creating several banquet rooms.

"A lot of people liked to go down there and sing and dance the night away," Phelps recalled. "It was a family place."

When Floyd left, the restaurant remained a hit with residents and critics.

Under the ownership of Richard S. Davis of Millersville, Berger's closed in the late 1980s, Phelps said. It is unclear why, but Phelps speculated that the pressure of maintaining quality might have been too much.

"It's the hardest of all businesses because you're dealing with food, and you have to be careful with that," said Phelps, who ran his own lounge and restaurant during the 1970s.

"And you have to provide the customers with so much service. It's just tough."

Davis did not return phone calls.

Last winter, there were rumors that Davis had sold the restaurant and that the new owner was planning to reopen it. Weeds growing through cracks in the parking lot were removed, and signs advertising for employers were posted.

But the reopening never came, and many residents, including Frank Halgas, want something to replace the used-car and boat lot.

"It's an eyesore," said Halgas, president of the Greater Pasadena Council.

"I don't think the people of Pasadena want to have a used-car lot to come home to.

"I just want to see someone open it for good."

Pub Date: 8/23/96

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