The Dallas Observer reported today that the owners of a number of well-known restaurants in Dallas are in financial hot water for failures to meet obligations to entities that include the IRS, the state of Texas, and Dallas County.
Christopher Zielke, Christopher Jeffers, their Turn the Tables Hospitality group, and chef and co-owner Tim Byres, are the subjects of various lawsuits filed over the past year.
We saw the closures that trickled out over the past several years: Smoke Plano, The Theodore at NorthPark, and Bolsa Mercado. Now the back story comes out: failure to pay rent post-closure (at the first two locations), and a host of other failures that speak to financial troubles.
“A federal tax lien dated Oct. 19 shows that Tierra Firma Hospitality Group, the company Zielke, Jeffers and Byres used to manage Smoke’s Plano location, failed to pay taxes to the IRS for the first three quarters of 2017. The restaurant closed in the third quarter, leaving behind a balance of $150,644.50 owed to the federal government,” Brian Reinhart of the Observer writes.
Another closure, that of The Theodore, involved a lease through 2027, with rent payments due to the shopping center until new tenants can be found. The same situation was true for Smoke Plano, in Preston Towne Center.
The Observer also notes that the state of Texas, too, has placed eight liens on Turn the Tables properties and that Dallas County tax records show unpaid 2017 taxes for Bolsa and Smoke.
Smoke, the only property to be currently free of liens was recently sold to The Belmont Hotel. In December, Tim Byres moved to the position of managing director for Stephan Pyles. I reached out to him for comment and am waiting for him to return my call.
In total, the Observer reports, the taxes and liens add up to over $190,000. The players are also dealing with miscellaneous lawsuits—credit card and others—having to do with Bolsa and Chicken Scratch.
This is a rude awakening to the cost of play in this city. In a town with a bonanza of openings, full of diners enamored with the new and the splashy, opening a restaurant is a costly venture. It is also a test of financial savvy and the ability to navigate a landscape of shifting ground, enticing offers, and rising rents. It seems to me a cautionary tale for a restaurant market that has been unstable of late. Zielke’s comments strike me with the retrospective ruefulness of a restaurateur who got in over his head. What this will mean for the restaurant group’s remaining spots—Bolsa, Chicken Scratch, and The Foundry—remains to be seen.