After people noticed last week that Todd English's Olives in City Square was closed, the jetsetting celebrichef with Boston roots issued a press release promising an all new Olives at a "new and shiny" location, one better suited for the times than dowdy old City Square, even if he had only opened a new and shiny Olives there last year:
Charlestown is and will always have a special place in my heart. It is with sadness that I will be leaving this neighborhood. We have been here since 1989 and so many wonderful memories are tied to this place. But with the incredible way America's culinary landscape has been evolving, I have decided that Olives - my first and signature restaurant - must also evolve.
What English forgot to mention in his wistful press release was that he had no choice in the closing of Olives - his landlord closed it for him, after convincing a judge last fall to let him seize the restaurant and all its belongings, including its valuable liquor license. Seems English owes a bit of back rent - some $780,000 in rent and interest dating to 2010.
Meanwhile, English faces similar problems across the harbor, where the operators of Faneuil Hall Marketplace got their own court order just last month to attach not only the liquor license of his failed Kingfish Hall but assets of his holding companies, in a lawsuit in which the marketplace now charges English with running a fraudulent financial shell game to suck assets out of the restaurant to avoid paying them.
According to a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court by William Carey, who owns 10 City Square in Charlestown, English stopped paying rent on Olives in early 2010 - several months before a fire that knocked the restaurant out of business for two years.
Carey, who blames English for that fire, alleging he failed to have the restaurant's ducts cleared of grease, sued English last September for $780,942.72 in back rent and interest.
At first, Carey seemed content to let the lawsuit wend its slow way through court and to try to negotiate a settlement with English.
But then the Globe found out about the suit.
In a court filing, Carey wrote that after a Globe reporter contacted both him and English, he agreed with a request from English to have his lawyer tell the nosy reporter that both sides were working on an amicable settlement.
But after the Globe story appeared, English got really mad, Carey wrote. He said English sent him a text message reading, in part: "I don't want to have to blow u up, but I will. Not good for anyone." And he refused to meet to discuss a settlement.
Carey, well aware of the alleged condition in which English left Kingfish Hall, said he took English's threat literally and seriously.
"As the relationship with Mr. English has become contentious and in light of his threat to 'blow me up,' I am concerned that Mr. English may remove fixtures and other items from Olives and cause damage to the leased premises," he wrote.
A Suffolk Superior Court judge granted his motion Nov. 15. On Nov. 29, a sheriff officially seized the restaurant's liquor license, meaning it can't be sold without court permission. Last week, the landlord seized the physical location.
In a separate case in Suffolk Superior Court, a judge agreed last month to let the Rouse Companies, which now manage Faneuil Hall, attach close to $2 million in English's assets to try to recoup the nearly $1 million in rent he failed to pay for Kingfish Hall. These assets include his ownership of two holding companies and, as at Olives, the restaurant's liquor license.
Rouse filed its request for asset attachment on June 7 - a little more than a month after English's CFO, Ron Chorney, and his attorney, Dennis Quilty, appeared before the Boston Licensing Board to successfully ask for more time to sell the license to help pay off Rouse.
The board theoretically bars owners of liquor licenses - which are in short supply - from just sitting on them, but the board has consistently given English extension after extension to do something with his licenses at both Olives and Kingfish Hall.
In its request for attachments, Rouse said a deposition of Chorney and financial records from the company showed that even as Kingfish Hall - and its legal owner, Omega III LLC - was falling more and more behind in its rent to Faneuil Hall, it was continuing to funnel large amounts of cash to English's holding companies - which used the money to pay off debt at an Olives in Washington, DC and contribute to English's large salary and car payments.
In his deposition, Chorney said part of the payments were for work done by the holding companies for the restaurant, but that he could not say why the bulk of the payments were made. Rouse's attorney wrote:
Todd English and individuals working for his affiliated companies diverted in excess of 2,294,555.79 from Omega III to other companies affiliated with Todd English between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2012. ... In the present action, it appears that Omega III received nothing in return for the transfers. Indeed, the CFO of Omega III and Todd English's other companies could not even explain the vast majority of these transfers at his deposition in this case.
On June 12, a Suffolk Superior Court judge agreed to attach assets of both Omega III - which now consists pretty much only of the liquor license - and English's holding companies. Rouse, the judge wrote, had proven "there is a reasonable likelihood that the plaintiff will recover judgment."
In his own filings, English has denied all the allegations.
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