Ex-manager, Owners Settle Suit

Showdown At Casa Grande

August 19, 1991|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff writer

The owner of Casa Grande restaurant and Guadala Harry's lounge in Parole reached an out-of-court settlement Friday with a manager it had fired and then sued for $130,000.

John Carroll Associates, the general partnership that owns the Jennifer Road restaurant, contended inthe Aug. 5 suit that Gary S. Friend mismanaged the eatery he ran from Feb. 15 to July 15, when he was fired.

Poor management and frequent absences during peak hours dramatically drove up costs, the suit said.

"The allegation is the manager was just asleep at the wheel," said John C. Gordon, attorney for JohnCarroll Associates. "Labor, food and liquor costs went through the roof."

Gordon said the restaurant's high sales volume multiplied the financial drain caused by higher operating costs. The suit placed the loss at $130,000.

When he was named manager, Friend was given control of the restaurant's liquor license because Richard Katz, president of John Carroll Associates, lives out of state.

The owners formed Collinson Inc. as a shell corporation to hold the liquor license. The partnership then transferred Collinson's stock, in trust, to Friend.

Soon after he was fired, Friend changed his mind about returning the Collinson stock to John Carroll Associates and wanted the owner to pay him $10,000 to relinquish control of the liquor license, court documents show.

Friend threatened to remove the license, so Casa Grande's owners filed for an injunction on Aug. 5 to block his action.

"He said if he didn't get paid, he'd take the liquor licenseoff the wall, which he can do," Gordon said. "If he takes the liquorlicense off the wall, the business gets shut down."

Liquor sales generate half the business at the restaurant and bar, which employs 80 people, court documents indicate.

"My client contends the stock was held in trust for the owner of the business," Gordon said. "It's not (Friend's) to control."

A Circuit Court judge granted the firman injunction Aug. 5 and scheduled a second hearing on the matter for Aug. 29.

Under the terms of Friday's settlement, all suits against Friend will be dropped. John Carroll Associates will pay him an undisclosed amount, and Friend has agreed not to interfere with a liquor license transfer, Gordon said.

Neither Friend nor his attorneys could be reached for comment Friday.

Gordon said he plans to ask the county Board of Liquor License Commissioners for a license transfer from Friend to new manager Mark Wright, who had run the restaurant under a previous owner when it was called Plata Grande.

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