Rick’s Cafe Boatyard — a pricey restaurant counted on to anchor new riverfront development — has closed its doors and faces an uncertain future.

The property sits on the site of the former Asarco lead refinery. It’s owned by the city, which signed an extensive 30-year agreement to lease the property to the restaurateur. Current and former employees say the business has struggled.

Should the city start over?

The lease agreement set specific requirements for parts of the restaurant’s operations. The city gave the restaurant exclusive access to the redeveloped refinery site, and even prevented any construction in the immediate vicinity that might impair views of the building.

City officials report the restaurant has not paid its monthly rent of roughly $5,000 in two months. Douglas County records show the business has not paid its $35,324 property tax bill for 2011. Now its owner has approached the city with a request to rebrand and remodel the 16,000-square-foot space, with apparent plans to resume operations in the spring.

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