Roseville restaurant owner missing; business closed

The speculation about the mysterious disappearance of the prominent Roseville developer behind the city’s Sammy Hagar-themed restaurant engulfed the city Tuesday, as fellow business owners wondered aloud whether the seemingly stable owner is a victim of foul play, was in an accident or just needed time off the grid.

The last confirmed sighting of developer Stephen Pease, 57, was Nov. 3 when he checked out of a seaside motel in Fort Bragg. In his absence, Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill closed its doors Sunday – temporarily, according to a note left on its door.

While Roseville police – lacking evidence of a crime – say they are still in wait-and-see mode, friends are clearly concerned. In hopes of finding Pease, friends have filed police reports, are asking others to spread the word and are emailing “missing” fliers to Fort Bragg businesses.

“It isn’t like him to be gone for this long. The fact that Sammy’s is closed right now is troubling. The fact that he’s missing is troubling,” said friend Chris Maudru, who, along with his wife, Kat, is spearheading the effort to locate Pease. “The last we have him using his credit card is in Fort Bragg.”

Pease spoke to his ex-wife by phone from Las Vegas on Oct. 28, mentioning that he needed to “clear his head,” Maudru said. He said he wouldn’t speculate on what might have been troubling Pease.

On Oct. 31, the Roseville Police Department received a missing-person report. A week later, a second missing-person report was filed in Fort Bragg.

Pease stayed one night at the Surf and Sand Lodge in Fort Bragg, checking in Nov. 2 and leaving Nov. 3, said Scott Mayberry, a spokesman for the Fort Bragg Police Department.

Mayberry said Pease was traveling with a rental car.

Maudru said Pease picked up the rental vehicle – a silver Chevy Captiva wagon/SUV – in Portland. It was due to be returned on Nov. 5, he said, but has not been returned.

With help from the police, Maudru said, he persuaded the car manufacturer to turn on the On-Star navigation/tracking system, but the system was unable to acquire a signal. That is not direct evidence that the vehicle is not operable, Maudru said; it could be in a parking garage or, more likely, in a remote area without service.

Pease is described as being 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, with gray hair and hazel eyes. He is not currently married and does not have children.

Roseville police are not ready to mount an investigation into Pease’s whereabouts.

“There has been no crime reported. There is no evidence of foul play,” said Dee Dee Gunther, a spokeswoman for the Roseville Police Department.

One potential source of information who might be able to explain why Sammy’s closed in Pease’s absence, business partner Jon Yip, has not talked to the media. The restaurant – viewed as key in efforts to revitalize downtown Roseville – closed Sunday.

A note on the restaurant’s door said: “Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill will be closed temporarily due to unforeseen events. We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to serving the community again soon.”

Hannah Kampf, a Los Angeles-based spokeswoman, declined to expand beyond the printed statement.

“It’s an ongoing investigation, so we are all waiting,” she said.

Associates said the business seemed to be healthy and that Pease was not erratic in nature.

“I’m very concerned about his whereabouts,” said Krista Bernasconi, who runs her public relations business out of a Pease-owned building on Vernon Street. “I’ve known him to be a standup guy. I’m completely puzzled.”

Pease is a key figure in the city’s effort to revitalize downtown Roseville. Sammy’s Rockin’ Island Bar & Grill opened at 238 Vernon St. in September 2012 with the help of a $1.5 million loan from the city’s nonprofit development corporation. The restaurant hosted concerts and comedy shows and gave to local charities. Pease actively encouraged food truck events and other events aimed at bringing people downtown.

Chris Robles, the city’s economic development director, called the restaurant’s closure a “bump in the road” and said city officials are bullish on downtown with or without Sammy’s. He said officials are looking into either reopening Sammy’s or finding a new business for the site.

Robles said the development corporation’s loan to the restaurant group was a private matter and would not say whether payments were being made on time. The development corporation is funded by a loan from the city.

Pease and his ownership group were confident enough in the business to begin work toward opening a second Hagar-themed restaurant at the Roseville Galleria in mid-December.

“Construction stopped a few days ago. However, as far as Westfield is aware, the restaurant is still slated to open in mid-December,” the company said in a statement.

Scott Alvord, president of the Downtown Roseville Merchants association, said he was assured that the Vernon Street location would remain open. He said the 238 Vernon Street location seemed healthy.

“He took a risk coming down here with a restaurant. It would be a shock if it were a financial situation,” said Alvord. “The restaurant seems to be doing very well.”