After months of battling landlord Fulcrum Property over its lease, Petaluma diner Pepper's Restaurant was forced to close its doors on Dec. 31.

"The landlord is pushing us out because they want to give the property to Safeway for its new gas station," said restaurant owner Danny Ibrahim. "Closing at Christmas time was not an easy thing to do, especially because we had to let our 30 employees go. But we had no choice though."

Calls to Fulcrum Property were not returned.

Six months ago, Fulcrum Property informed Ibrahim and a handful of other nearby business owners that the developer would not renew their leases, which expired at the end of 2013. Much to the dismay of city officials, and despite multiple attempts to work out a relocation deal with Fulcrum, Pepper's could not escape eviction.

"I'm really sorry for the owner, the employees and all the people in town who have loved visiting that restaurant," said Mayor David Glass. "I was hopeful that if the site developer demolished the building, they would relocate the displaced businesses at no cost, but it appears that nothing could be worked out."

This summer, Safeway proposed building a gas station in the Washington Square shopping center, but has yet to finish the required traffic study. While some welcomed the idea of Safeway's often below-market gas prices in town, local gas station owners, nearby residents and several council members have voiced concern over the idea of another fueling station in Petaluma.

Ibrahim said he will try to find a new location in Petaluma for Pepper's Restaurant, but has yet to find a space.

(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at