It's common for restaurant partnerships to call it quits. Uncommon, however, is for partners to verbally and physically abuse one another. Yet that seems to be the case for Latin House Pembroke Pines, whose founding partner, Michell Sanchez, was recently caught on camera pushing Marcellus Kitt-Chance four times after the investing partner entered the eatery. The video, allegedly taken by a restaurant camera, was posted on Instagram. (It's embedded later in this post.) The incident, which occurred in January, facilitated a final split. It also promoted police to get involved and Sanchez to file a cease-and-desist order.
Fans of Latin House Grill on Sunset Drive following the burger joint on Instagram and Facebook might have noticed posts like one below. Sanchez tells New Times that he just wants to let customers know that he is no longer affiliated with the Pembroke Pines location. "I don't want our guests to come out and get a bad representation of what we're about," he says. "Because Latin House is on the building, it is trademarked by us. If he decides to stay open and sell subpar food, we just want to make sure that legally he does not do that."
WOW #descarados!!!! PINES Continues to sell food telling people they're our franchise...???? Incredible!!!!!!!! WE ARE NO LONGER ASSOCIATED with P. Pines! Our partner was not in the same page as us, and we will not lower our quality, name or standards. We're working on taking down our sign & name. Please let everyone know that there's only 1 LATIN HOUSE (9565 SW 72nd St.) Pls share!
Sanchez, who started the roving grill back when the food truck craze began, got rid of his wheels when he opened his first brick-and-mortar on Sunset Drive in 2012.
In 2014, Sanchez joined forces with Kitt-Chance for the opening of Latin House's Pembroke Pines location. The two met through a mutual contact who sold kitchen equipment and suggested they go into business together.
On March 6, 2014, Sanchez filed articles of incorporation with the State of Florida for Latin House Pines LLC. On June 2, 2014, the name of the registered agent was changed to Marcellus Kitt-Chance.
The breakup, according to Sanchez, was caused by disagreements from day one. "He fronted the money for the business, and I fronted the food through my other company, LHG Chief Productions. We'd been open for 25 weeks, and I only got paid on about nine. So there's a debt of nine weeks and a total $67,000 in food and $10,000 in fines that he owed me.
"At the end of the day, he put $240,000 upfront, and I brought the name and menu and management team and did the hiring and so on. He wanted return on investment from day one, and restaurants don't operate that way. The sale of food needed to be at $13,500, and we were only at $8,500 a week to be able to cover what we needed. Everything was covered except the food my company was providing."
Besides money and food costs, Sanchez states Kitt-Chance also "didn't know how to speak to people properly," which led to the confrontation caught on camera. In the video (posted below), Kitt-Chance says something to Sanchez that causes him to run inside and violently push the other restaurant owner, at which point the cops were called to the scene.
When New Times called Kitt-Chance for comment at the Pembroke Pines location, he stated he was "just changing management. It is owned and operated by me, as I bought it 100 percent. The menu will not be changed." Two minutes later, he went on to say that the menu would be changed and that Sanchez had assaulted him. "He put his hand on me because I fired him from my business and he was not happy. It's on video, and I am going to put it on YouTube, Instagram, and everywhere. I don't want to associate my business with Michell. He is an asshole with no experience in this business and is a thief." Kitt-Chance then said the police department would put Sanchez in jail. He added that he could say nothing more and hung up.
Sanchez has filed a federal lawsuit alleging trademark infringement, loss of business, defamation of character, and $100,000 in losses. (Court records show Kitt-Chance has been sued at least four times in the past, including allegations of nonpayment of bills.) The Latin House Grill owner continues to communicate with fans through Facebook and Instagram. On the flip side, Latin House Pembroke Pines recently started an Instagram account with the following information: "We're open under new management... Great food, great drinks, great service." The fourth post is confrontation caught on tape. Latin House Grill on Sunset Drive commented, but Pines erased the comment.
In the end, Sanchez says he just wants to continue to do what he loves, which is to be in the kitchen and cook. "I wasn't able to do that 'cause I was in two locations and became more of a business owner rather than a cook. For a long time, the second location was eating up everything, so now we can just focus on Miami, which is 100 percent ours and owned by my wife, my mom, and me." They will redo the bar, he says, and will continue to serve the same grub.
As for the dispute with Kitt-Chance, only time will tell. "Since the corporate name is 'Latin House Pines,' he's going to attempt to keep it. But I actually trademarked that exact logo. When I left, he had about $3,000 worth of food in the cooler. And since I have access to the cameras, I know he's trying to replicate the menu. He has to try to survive, and good luck to him, but he can't do it with that name."
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha