It’s true that for now, 17 Cuisine isn’t open and is likely done.
How and why that happened is at the center of a dispute between the restaurant owners Darren and Becca Cornell and the building owner John Lapierre.
After publishing a blog entry Wednesday that the restaurant appeared to be closed, I got this email from Becca Cornell with the heading, “False propaganda regarding your latest article.”
“A bit of background research would have been highly appreciated by both us and the general public. Had you contacted us via the email address we both know you have, you would have found out that we closed for a kitchen remodel in order to better facilitate our customers. Now you’re damaging our sales of the Living Social deal because you fail as a journalist? I highly suggest you recant this publishing with a public apology and the correct information before the “Truth” finds themselves sued for slander and yourself out of a job.”
There is a LivingSocial deal that went live this week.
She’s right. I didn’t email her or Darren. I should have. But getting in touch with them has often been difficult, particularly when they closed DC’s Burgers and didn’t pay their employees.
What I knew Wednesday is that the Facebook page was gone, the phone number didn’t work and a reader said there was a no trespassing sign on the door.
When I drove out there this morning, I saw this sign on the door.
I called the number. It was a guy who helps manage the building for owner John Lapierre, who is in Aruba.
Lapierre’s version: The Cornells fled the property, cleaned out coolers and fled on Sunday.
“They had everything packed up. They were coming back for a second load that night,” Lapierre said.
Lapierre said his guy got the locks changed. “I own the building and I threw their ass out,” he said.
Darren Cornell’s version: They were illegally evicted and plan to file suit. Cornell wouldn’t disclose the name of his attorney.
There were other issues:
Lapierre’s version: He called the repair contractor the Cornells told him they called. They hadn’t called. It worked fine when it was plugged in by the building manager.
Cornell’s version: He said he was going to call a repair contractor but hadn’t yet. He took the meat to his father’s restaurant in Wayland, Mich.
Gas service to the restaurant
Lapierre’s version: The gas was going to be shut off this week because they owe $600 and he had the account switched to his name.
Cornell’s version: It wasn’t going to be shut off. They were paying bills on time. A monthly gas bill was about $600.
Lapierre’s version: His building manager found unopened mail in a mailbox dating back to October, including a large number of bills.
Cornell’s version: They were paying their bills on time and checked the mail about once a week. In regard to the unpaid bills, “We had until a certain time to pay them. We were never in any danger of having utilities turned off or anything,” he said.
Lapierre’s version: They owed him about $3,500 in rent and didn’t pay any of the $36,000 he put into the restaurant to remodel it before they opened. “They owe everybody and their brother money,” he said. “They ain’t got any money to remodel anything.”
Cornell’s version: “Right now, we don’t owe him anything until Dec. 11,” he said. They would owe him $585 in rent for that week. He said they do owe the employees one week’s pay and owe some vendors.
Lapierre’s version: They took the cash register.
Cornell’s version: “The cash register was being replaced by a much more high-tech cash register,” he said. They took meat to his dad’s restaurant in Wayland and couldn’t find someone to fix a mixer, so they were going to Michigan anyway to do the dough and cheese for their pizza in Elkhart.
Money in the building:
Lapierre’s version: No money was in the building.
Cornell’s version: $1,500 to pay employees was in the building, but is missing now.
Lapierre’s version: They “hired and fired half of Elkhart County.”
Cornell’s version: They had about a dozen employees total. “We’ve had to let almost every one of them go,” he said, claiming they couldn’t do the job. “One of them was a culinary graduate and he couldn’t even cook eggs.”
Cornell said they took down their Facebook page until they knew for sure what was going on, but his wife, Becca, has been active on the Dining A La King page today:
Dan Cordes, by the way, is a former business partner of the Cornells at DC’s Pizza.
Lapierre said he trusted two young people to open a restaurant in his plaza, hoping it would take off. “I’m stupid. I never should have,” he said today. “I figured I’d give a couple young people a shot. They shot me, alright. Right in the ass.”
The other day, he told them they didn’t have the skills to run a lemonade stand. “They’re idiots,” he said.
“Trust me. It ain’t going to open under 17 Cuisine anymore.”
He’s hoping to have another restaurant open in the space.
Cornell said he plans to leave Elkhart, but also plans to file suit. “I’m going to sue him and I’m going to get a lot of money out of him and I’m going to open somewhere else,” he said.
The employee’s from DC’s Burgers never have been paid. The business filed bankruptcy, Cornell said.
Since July 2011, Darren or Becca Cornell opened three restaurants in Elkhart. They’ve upset at least two landlords. They got a letter from Pizza Hut because of copyright issues. They’ve not paid employees.
When they opened their third place, they asked me not to publicly say that they were the owners.
And now all three places are closed.
This morning, even before I knew all that had happened with them removing items from 17 Cuisine and the landlord changing the locks, Becca Cornell said they were closed for a kitchen remodel to better serve their customers. The two stories don’t match.
There is a birthday party for 20 that was scheduled for Sunday night at the restaurant, Lapierre said. He’s helping them find another location.
And to those people who bought the LivingSocial deal? Good luck cashing it in.
You can reach me at 574-296-5805 or email@example.com. My regular column appears on Monday in The Elkhart Truth and on eTruth.com.