The co-owner of a Sammy Hagar-themed restaurant in Northern California has been found dead, authorities said Wednesday, casting a shadow over plans for a downtown revival in a Sacramento suburb.
A body found last weekend by recreational divers off the coast of Gualala has been identified as that of 57-year-old Stephen Clark Pease, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department said in a news release. He was found to have hip replacement implants during an autopsy Tuesday, and serial numbers from the implants were used to identify the body. The coroner's office is still investigating the cause of death.
He was last seen Nov. 3 when he checked out of a hotel in Fort Bragg, more than 50 miles from where his body was found. He was driving a rental car that has not been recovered.
A sheriff's spokesman did not return several telephone calls seeking additional information. According to the department's news release, the body was retrieved by a state Department of Fish and Wildlife warden who swam out and pulled it ashore, where it had to be airlifted because of the steep terrain.
Pease was an owner of Sammy's Rockin' Island Bar & Grill and other businesses in Roseville, 20 miles northeast of Sacramento.
The year-old restaurant closed after he disappeared and is more than $9,000 behind on a $1.5 million loan with the Roseville Community Development Corp. It was designed to anchor downtown redevelopment for the city of 124,000.
The city declared Sept. 15, 2012, to be "Sammy Hagar Day'' to tout the restaurant's opening, with a concert and street party featuring Hagar and his band. The restaurant licensed Hagar's name, but the rocker does not have an ownership stake, city spokesman Brian Jacobson said.
Jacobson said it is up to the restaurant's surviving owners on how to proceed, but the city remains "very bullish'' on efforts to revive the historic downtown, which has been eclipsed by development around a regional mall on the outskirts of the city.
Pease paid the first loan installment in September, said Roseville Community Development Corp. president Howard Rudd. But he missed the second payment days before he disappeared on Halloween.
The corporation is not expecting Pease's company, Innova Restaurant Concepts LLC, to make the payment that is due this month and its attorneys have filed to hold the firm in default.
A second company operated by Pease was the rental agent for three other downtown properties, all of which have tenants who are making their monthly payments, Rudd said.
Foot traffic has been good and other merchants are happy, he said, partly due to the risk that Pease took in developing the Hagar-themed restaurant.
"He was taking a huge big step and that's what the Roseville Community Development Corp. was partnering to do, was to take that first big step to get a restaurant with a big name associated with it. Once that starts, you get momentum,'' Rudd said.
VIDEO: One-on-One with Sammy Hagar