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State agency restaurateur dies

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Plans to open a new sports bar and game room called Penalty Box in the state’s East End Complex have been put on hold after the owner died Saturday.

Jamie Peart was a longtime client of the California Department of Rehabilitation’s Business Enterprises Program. Peart, who was 50, owned Tradewinds Cafe in the California Department of Transportation Building at the corner of Alhambra Boulevard and R Street.

He died Saturday morning of natural causes, according to the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office. The family believes he died of heart failure, but the cause of death is not yet known, said family friend Gary Crocker.

Peart had planned to open Penalty Box on Sept. 1 at the California Department of Health Services, 1629 Capitol Ave. He’d been full of ideas for revamping the restaurant that had operated for four years as MVP Sports Grill.

"He was getting all excited about what he was going to do here," MVP owner Ron Long said Monday at the Midtown restaurant. Long continued operating a sports bar at the location even after relocating his establishment a few blocks away earlier this summer.

Just over a week ago, Peart had recalled how he met his wife, Debbie, as the two were going through the food service and restaurant management program for the legally blind in 1995. They were married the next year.

She had been born with nerve damage to her eyes. Peart had lost his vision and a leg to diabetes.

Peart first operated Uncle Guido’s inside the state health services building on North Seventh Street and Richards Boulevard. He then opened Tradewinds in 2002.

Peart had said he was happy to be returning to the health services department, where old customers still recognized him. Another person was already scheduled to take over Tradewinds next month.

His wife, a separate vendor who oversees food services at the Franchise Tax Board, had planned to help run Penalty Box, a big establishment with long hours. Peart had planned to turn the back of MVP into a game room with pool tables and full-size arcade games.

He’d hoped to bring prices down by offering simple fare and continuing to offer pizzas, which turn a good profit. He also wanted to highlight beer and wine from local microwbreweries and vineyards, he said.

Peart was a commercial electrician for 18 years. In the winters, when work got slow, he worked waiting tables and prepping food in restaurants managed by his ex-wife. Just before he died, he said he wouldn’t let diabetes, blindness and the need to work in a wheelchair get in his way.

"Nothing’s stopping me, though," he said. "It’s not what you can’t do. It’s what you can do."

Peart was set to turn 51 on Sept. 10. A funeral is expected to be held this weekend. Arrangements are being handled by East Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary.

Peart was a “valued” vendor with the Business Enterprises Program, said state rehab department spokeswoman Jennifer Benson.

“We are very saddened by the news of Mr. Peart’s passing and offer our deepest sympathy to Debbie and the family,” she said in a statement. “At this time, we are prudently working … to identify both the short- and long-term operational solutions for his facilities.”

Long said he will continue operating the sports bar at the East End Complex until the Business Enterprises Program decides how to proceed.

"I think he would have done pretty good here," Long said as he sat in the back of the restaurant. "He was getting ready to do something new in life."

Photos of Ron Long, MPV Sports Bar, and East End Complex by Suzanne Hurt, a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. 

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