Chef Don Boye, part owner of the Rare Steakhouse that opened in March, is suing his partners Akon and Houston Texan legend Andre Johnson.
In a civil lawsuit filed in May, the duo claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing.
Johnson and Akon contributed about $1.2 million to fund the restaurant, and Bowie was supposed to provide an additional $700,000. Although the investors wrote in the lawsuit that they don’t believe the chef made any money at all.
When asked if the money was lost, Rusty Harden, who represents Johnson and Akon, replied, “Well, we have to look at him for that question. We can’t find where he is. That’s one of the things we’re on with a forensic accountant.”
Months after the restaurant opened, prosecutors said they discovered that employees and vendors had not been paid on time, and some had not.
“The almost complete absence of cash deposits in a restaurant – which actively encourages customers to use cash – is highly suspicious and suggests embezzlement or theft by Bowie or others,” Akon and Johnson’s attorneys wrote in the civil lawsuit.
They said the bank records show unexplained transfers from the restaurant’s accounts. Lawyers believe the money made at Rare is being used to fund Bowie’s other restaurant and for personal use.
“I think he’s faced a situation where everything is narrowing down and people are starting to find out the truth,” Hardin said.
Bowie’s lawyers said in a lawsuit in response to the lawsuit that he denies the allegations against him.
The allegations about Rare are similar to those made by his business partner at the popular Midtown restaurant, Taste Bar and Kitchen.
Dallas attorney Kevin Kelly also filed a lawsuit against Bowie in 2020, calling it a “classic restaurant manager embezzlement case.”
And Kelly contributed $220,000 to open the restaurant, according to the lawsuit.
Bank records indicate that within a week of delivering the first payment, Bowie made unauthorized personal withdrawals from ATMs, according to the lawsuit.
Kelly hired a forensic attorney, who said he uncovered $900,000 missing in just over a year. His attorney included a detail in the civil filing showing the accountant’s findings. They claim that Bowie took cash proceeds, valet payments, hosted large private events with celebrities and took profits, and gave the money to family and friends.
Bowie denies all allegations against him in the court filing. Instead, he claims that the accountant hired by Kelly neglected the luxury of Taste Bar and Kitchen.
ABC13 also found records showing two Bowie-owned LLCs that received more than $650,000 in coronavirus-related Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that were for payroll.
Kelly said in his lawsuit that he was not consulted about the loan taken out for his restaurant with the chef and doesn’t know how the money was spent.
Bowie also gets involved in a legal battle with the owner of the famous Midtown restaurant.
Amir Ansari said he has been trying to evict the chef since March for not paying rent. He tried closing Bowie and Taste, but was able to regain access.
In allegations made by the owner in civil filings, the chef made unauthorized additions to the building, including adding a second-floor deck.
Ansari hired a structural engineer who inspected Taste Bar and Kitchen in March and noted in his report that there was a significant amount of rotting timber on the building and believed that part of the building could collapse based on the extent of the structural damage.
The owner went in front of the Houston City Council with his frustrations.
“I was stopped by armed guards who are there,” Ansari told the council. “So I’m asking HPD to help protect me so I don’t get shot.”
“But if you have a right, you have to go to the courtroom and the judge should be the arbitrator in this dispute,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in response. “I hear what you’re saying. Let me talk to the legal.”
In court filings, Bowie claimed he had paid the rent and that Ansari had broken the lease.
Chef’s partners at Rare Steakhouse said they were unaware of the legal problems Bowie was a part of before going into business with him.
“I think at the end of the day,[Boy]turned this place on the ground, and the partners wanted to see if they could save it,” Hardin said. “They wanted to see if they could save the restaurant, if they could provide jobs for the people who were there. It looks like that’s not going to be possible.”
ABC13 has been in touch with Bowie and his attorney, Ben Hall, for over a week to try to get their side of the story. Bowie responded late Thursday afternoon and said he was very interested in clearing up the speculation. We will update the story when that happens.
No criminal charges were brought in the case. Houston police said they could neither confirm nor deny whether they were investigating the allegations.
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