Bar Louie restaurant taking over vacant Clematis space in West Palm Beach
It’s been a long time, but a prime spot on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach is about to get busy again.
Bar Louie just inked a deal to lease 200 Clematis, a space formerly occupied by Cafe Mediterraneo and, before that, by Pescatore restaurant. The two-story corner property sits right by the fountain and the newly opened view to the Intracoastal Waterway. It has been vacant for several years.
Boca Raton restaurant broker Tom Prakas put together the deal, along with CB Richard Ellis. The casual American restaurant is set to open after an extensive rehab, Prakas said.
Prakas said Bar Louie officials believe Clematis Street is enjoying a revival “and they feel good about the location and the fact that they can see the waterfront.”
Bar Louie briefly had a location at CityPlace, near Blue Martini, but the eatery closed not too long after it opened in 2008. The Texas-based chain still has a location in Boynton Beach, in the Renaissance Commons shopping center.
On its website, Bar Louie describes itself as a “casually cool neighborhood restaurant and bar.”
A Bar Louie manager at the Boynton Beach location said the restaurant hopes to be open by March.
Since Thanksgiving, Boca Raton real estate firm Mizner Grande Realty has been doing major damage control, hoping to quell the fallout from the disappearance of about $1.3 million in escrow money being held by an outside attorney on behalf of about two dozen Mizner Grande clients.
This month, Mizner Grande sued a former agent, Jon D. Rashotsky, claiming he stole the money, according to a lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
The scandal has been the talk of the real estate community. It’s also a stark reminder that no matter how much scrutiny the industry has received since the crash, there are no guarantees when large amounts of money get moved around.
Back in November, Mizner Grande issued a pre-emptive press release, announcing it had fired Rashotsky for “improper disbursements.”
The 10-year-old firm also said it was developing a better plan to monitor escrow money and prevent “any future improprieties.”
Right before Thanksgiving, Mizner Grande owner Ari Albinder said he heard from a client that his deposit was missing and no one could reach Rashotsky. “I was shocked and floored. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Albinder said.
In its lawsuit, Mizner Grande accuses Rashotksy of “scheming” to steal the escrow money by giving instruction to Boca Raton attorney Edgar Benes to disburse the money, which is unaccounted for. The lawsuit alleges fraud and breach of contract.
Albinder said the money had gone to “unauthorized parties,” but he did not say who they were. Normally, deposits cannot be released without signatures of the parties involved in the transaction, such as buyer and seller.
A Delray Beach police spokeswoman said an investigation is ongoing. Rashotsky could not be reached for comment.
Now at least one client is putting the blame squarely at the feet of Mizner Grande, as well as the lawyer who was responsible for safeguarding the money.
Jamie Fischer of Boca Raton alleges in his own lawsuit that Mizner Grande failed to conduct “an appropriate investigation” of Rashotsky before it hired him as an independent agent, resulting in the theft of Fischer’s $120,000 that was to serve as a down payment on a Delray Beach condo.
The lawsuit doesn’t specify what that investigation might have found, but it does say that a check would have revealed Rashotsky’s “unsuitability.”
Stephen Padula, an attorney for Fischer, said Mizner Grande is trying to deflect blame away from itself by suing Rashotsky.
But Albinder says the blame lies with its “rogue” agent, Rashotksy, and with Benes. Since Benes’ firm did the disbursements, Mizner Grande had no idea what was happening to its clients’ money, especially since Mizner Grande and Benes had no business affiliation, Albinder said.
Albinder said he has filed a Bar complaint against Benes, and a Florida Bar spokeswoman confirmed the Bar is investigating trust account violations involving Benes.
An attorney for Benes did not return a call seeking comment.
Albinder vowed to take “every legal measure to obtain the money back for victims.”
Mizner Grande attorney Tom Graner said some victims are assigning their losses to Mizner Grande, which will allow Mizner Grande to pursue Benes for the losses, with Mizner Grande footing the legal bill.