Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the amount of back taxes that the owner of the Espresso Roma Corporation currently owes. The story has been updated to reflect that he paid a portion of the amount owed.
Cafe Siena will be evicted from its location on 13th Avenue, according to court documents filed in Lane County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
The cafe’s owner, David “Sandy” Boyd, isn’t left empty handed on 13th Avenue, as he still owns one business — Espresso Roma Cafe.
Espresso Roma is a campus staple, but despite the cafe’s local, rustic feel, it is actually one of many Espresso Romas that Boyd owned or had a previous financial interest in — Boyd started the first Espresso Roma in Berkeley, California, in the 1980s and has ventured as far as Colorado. Boyd’s businesses, which are scattered across several states, owed millions of dollars in back taxes to the IRS and the state government of California, which he later partially paid off.
Miguel Cortez, manager of both Espresso Roma and Cafe Siena from 1993 to 2007, said Boyd infrequently visited the Eugene location. During his time as manager, Cortez said he did not see Boyd in person for eight years. Business was discussed almost exclusively over the phone.
“Only if it was something super important would he call me,” Cortez said. “Otherwise he trusted me fully — 100 percent.”
Boyd said that Cortez running Espresso Roma added to the local feel of the cafe.
“Everyone on the street knew Miguel. I felt like that was really his store,” Boyd said. “Who was I? I was just the guy up there to fix something.”
After 2007, Cortez stopped managing Cafe Siena for Boyd and consolidated his focus on Espresso Roma. Now retired, Cortez said he blames the collapse of Cafe Siena on his succeeding manager.
According to court documents, Cafe Siena defaulted on the lease of its property, which is owned by The Duck Store. During an eviction hearing on March 13, Boyd tried to negotiate with The Duck Store’s attorneys, but they were unable to come to an agreement and ultimately went to trial, which resulted in the eviction.
Boyd said that he had trouble finding an attorney to represent him during the trial.
“I found a local guy, but he had another trial on Friday,” Boyd said. “He gave me some advice, but he couldn’t represent me because he had another trial the same day.”
Boyd said Roma staff wanted to open a restaurant next door and convinced him to start Cafe Siena. Boyd got a health inspector’s approval and reopened the cafe shortly before the trial.
“I had my own crepe breakfast on Friday morning,” he said. “After I found out I lost, I took everything out. The store is clean, and it has new floors and counters. I took it all out and put it in storage.”
Boyd said that one of his old employees came back to help him remodel and cook the crepes because he remembered the recipe for the batter.
Even with the loss of the business, Boyd was able to see some positive aspects of it:
“It brought me closer together with everyone. I know their last names and their fathers when they used to work for me. It was a good experience, except it ended poorly.”
Roma wasn’t built in a day
Boyd started the Espresso Roma Corporation in Emeryville, California, in 1980, according to California business records. In 1984, Boyd opened Espresso Roma in Eugene.
Boyd has had interests in various food service businesses over the years, including a company called Fresh Choice LLC, which was a buffet-style restaurant headquartered in Emeryville. Fresh Choice filed for bankruptcy in July 2012. Boyd attributed the bankruptcy to changing demographics of customers.
Boyd said that rent has significantly gone up at Roma’s flagship location in Berkeley.
“I just have a lot of different projects and I’m trying to keep my head above water and make enough money to pay overhead,” Boyd said.
According to an analysis of public records done by the Emerald, the Espresso Roma Corporation, the parent company of Espresso Roma, owed over $2.5 million in taxes to the IRS and the state government in California from 2012 to 2018.
In Oregon, Espresso Roma owed just over $615,000 in quarterly federal tax returns. The Espresso Roma Corporation’s California venture owed over $1.5 million in federal and state taxes. The Espresso Roma in Boulder, Colorado, owed just over $447,000 to the IRS; however, the business closed in 2013 and Boyd said his ex-wife owned the property after their divorce. The Boulder location closed in 2013, however, the notice of federal tax lien showed that the business was behind on federal taxes from 2012 to 2015.
Boyd said that he had sold $2 million worth of properties to partially pay off the taxes owed.
Boyd paid just over $200,000 in taxes to the state of California, according to public records. The Emerald was unable to confirm that the other liens had been satisfied because it is not required for the termination of the liens to be posted once they are satisfied, according to an official in the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.
“Every single one of the tax numbers that [the Emerald] published today was incorrect,” Boyd said following the publication of the article. “Many of them have been paid off in full.”
However, Boyd declined this morning to provide any documents to confirm that he had paid those taxes. The Emerald is working to confirm the exact amount that Boyd paid in back taxes.
Boyd said that despite the debt accrued by his corporation, Eugene’s Espresso Roma is not in danger of closing. Unlike Siena, the building of Espresso Roma is not owned by the Duck Store. Boyd said that he bought the building in the ’80s — it was a bookstore before becoming a cafe.
Although Boyd lives in California, he says that all of Roma’s employees are local.
“It’s local people. I must have 50 to 75 people who have worked for me for more than 30 years. We’re sort of an extended family.”
Boyd said that he hoped that The Duck Store would give the lease to Cortez; however, Cortez said that he wants to see the place in good hands, but is comfortable in retirement.
Although Cafe Siena may be a thing of the past, Boyd is more certain about the future of Espresso Roma.
“No, they’re not going anywhere,” Boyd said.
Additional information about the Emerald’s public record research was also included.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from the owner of the Espresso Roma Corporation following the publication of the article. Additional information about the Emerald’s public records research was also included.