New details have emerged in the allegations of PPP fraud at one of the country’s best steakhouses.
Earlier this year, Maple & Ash came under scrutiny for allegedly misusing funds received via the Paycheck Protection Program, which was set up to help businesses struggling during the pandemic. Now, thanks to the unsealing of court records in the case, we’re able to see where exactly some of that money went, with WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times recently reporting that information.
According to records reviewed by the two outlets, Maple & Ash locations in Chicago and Arizona benefitted from about $7.6 million in PPP money. However, the investors suing the restaurant claim that none of that money went toward helping the business and its employees. Rather, bank statements show that $2.2 million was spent on a 12-seat 2007 Learjet and that more than $32,000 was paid to a Chicago country club.
The documents depict “the rampant misappropriations of PPP funds” and “massive payments of millions of dollars in undisclosed and improper payments,” the lawyers for the investors said, according to WBEZ and the Sun-Times.
However, Doug Wexler, an attorney for the Maple & Ash co-founder James Lasky, said in a statement that “all funds were properly applied for, utilized for operations, and forgiven. . .Ultimately, Maple & Ash will prevail on each issue put forth by the Plaintiffs.” (Wexler has not responded to Robb Report‘s request for comment.) The former co-owner David Pisor, meanwhile, said that he is no longer involved in Maple & Ash or any pending lawsuits. (He and Lasky settled a different suit in January, opting to break up the restaurant’s parent company.) Additionally, Pisor told WBEZ and the Sun-Times that he never signed PPP loan documents or handled related finances.
“The documents speak for themselves,” he said. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Last year, Chicago’s Maple & Ash brought in more than $30 million in sales, making it the fourth-highest-performing independent restaurant in the country, according to Restaurant Business. The Scottsdale location came in at No. 12, notching more than $23 million in sales. The investors, however, have said that they received smaller-than-expected dividends from the restaurants and had trouble getting financial information from the company. (Michael Forde, an attorney for the investors, declined to comment to WBEZ and the Sun-Times. He did not immediately respond to Robb Report‘s request for comment.)