Restaurant floored by Scott Johnson ADA lawsuit reopening in Truckee
TRUCKEE, Calif. — A longtime family restaurant that fell victim to ADA lawsuit-driven financial woes a few years ago is making its return to Truckee this week.
Donner Lake Kitchen will reopen Wednesday, 44 months after Kelley and Bill Money closed the locals-favorite diner at 13710 Donner Pass Road.
Kelley Money said she learned in August that Brett and Stacey Fite were selling the business, which they reopened the summer of 2011 as the Old 40 Kitchen & Grill.
“I heard they were selling it, so I called my old landlord, worked out a deal, and ended up buying it back for the second time,” Money said Monday. “It’s all redone and legal … we missed Truckee terribly, so we’re beyond excited that we’re coming home.”
The Old 40 restaurant officially closed Oct. 20, property owner Roger Gannam said Tuesday, adding that he’s “happy to have Kelley back.”
The Moneys first bought Donner Lake Kitchen in 1994 (it had been open several years prior), and quickly drew a loyal following from Truckee residents who grew fond of Kelley’s signature dishes, like her huevos rancheros, and the diner’s homey feel.
However, in early 2009, California attorney Scott Johnson — a quadriplegic who’s heralded and denounced for his hundreds of Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits that require businesses to quickly meet federal building requirements or settle through payment, including many in the Truckee-Tahoe region — notified the Moneys about illegal access issues at the restaurant.
Weighing attorney fees, Gannam decided it would be cheaper to settle, and he required the Moneys make the needed upgrades.
The estimated $20,000 to $60,000 in work and permits coming amid the Great Recession was too much to absorb for the Moneys, who served up their last meal — or so they thought — on Feb. 27, 2011.
Not long after closing shop, the Moneys opened the Sierraville Kitchen on Main Street in Sierraville, a business that will remain open as the second venture with Donner Lake Kitchen unfolds this week.
The Moneys also opened The Log Cabin in Portola in June 2013, although that restaurant closed this September, Kelley said.
“That didn’t last long,” she said with a chuckle. “But we learned a lot.”
Starting Wednesday, Donner Lake Kitchen will serve breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. And outside of a few additions, pretty much the same menu, with most meals between $9 and $13, is returning.
Two of the Moneys’ children — Max, 19, and Katie, 17 — will help run the restaurant, Kelley said, and two employees who worked for 18 years at Donner Lake Kitchen before 2011 will return as well.
As for Bill, who’s recovering from two strokes the past couple years, he won’t have too big a part in the business for now, she said.
“We just want to emphasize how happy and honored we are to come back,” Kelley said. “I mean, who gets a chance like that? I just can’t believe it — am I lucky or what?”
The restaurant is planning a grand reopening celebration the weekend of Nov. 22-23. While its website, donnerlakekitchen.com, is being finalized, locals can follow progress and learn more about the celebration on Facebook.