By Tim Cox
A Fort Recovery restaurant has closed its doors and the owners may have returned to Hawaii, defaulting on a $43,000 revolving loan from Mercer County in the process.
Kanoe's has been closed since Aug. 4. In the weeks leading up to the closure, the owners allowed their state liquor license to lapse and were cited for numerous health code violations.
Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham issued a restraining order that allowed county officials to change the locks on the restaurant at 102 N. Wayne St. to prevent the removal of any equipment from the site. Court documents indicate numerous attempts by county officials to reach Kanoe's owners Stephen B. Sinenci and Mary Kaikala Sinenci have been unsuccessful.
The couple moved from Hawaii and opened the restaurant and bar in the summer of 2001 with the assistance of a $43,000 loan from the county revolving loan program. The loan was to be repaid over 20 years at 5 percent interest. A balance of $29,000 remains on the loan. The restaurant also owes Mercer Savings Bank about $100,000.
The business is now about three months behind in its payments. Records filed with the case show the Sinencis have withdrawn their children from Fort Recovery Local Schools. The students' records were ordered forwarded to Hana, Hawaii, although no address or contact information for the Sinencis is listed in the paperwork.
The restaurant's D1, D2, D3 and D3A liquor licenses were allowed to lapse in June. A July 27 health inspection turned up numerous violations.
Michelle Kimmel, the county health department's director of environmental health, noted numerous food storage violations. Other infractions included an ashtray in the non-smoking kitchen area, the lack of a sneeze guard on a buffet table and general clutter in the food storage areas.
Kimmel gave the owners one week to correct the problems but when she returned for another inspection, she found the business closed.
A hearing was set for Monday to determine the course of the case. The Sinencis were not at the hearing, nor was their attorney.
County Community Development Director Larry Stelzer said the county should recoup most of its money. The building is intact and still contains all of the restaurant equipment, he said.
Revolving loans are high-risk by nature but only a handful of more than 100 businesses have defaulted on the public loans through the years, Stelzer said. Unlike a traditional bank, the county is not in the loan business to make money.
"It's about creating jobs," Stelzer said.