Earlier this week, Miami New Times sat down with restaurateur Jonathan Eismann to discuss the disappearance of his restaurant empire and his new pizza venture (read the two-part interview here and here). At the helm of four successful venues last year (Pizza Volante, Fin, Q, and Pacific Time), Eismann had seemed like Mister Miami.
Then, little by little, the empire crumbled. Bills piled up, restaurants folded, and lawsuits were filed. Even Eismann's six-bedroom house dropped in value by almost a million.
True, the United States is mired in one of the worst recessions in its history, and businesses and residential properties are taking a beating, but there are still many savvy restaurant owners thriving in this economy. Eismann took a bigger hit than almost anyone we can think of.
So what's up with the man who once seemed to be this town's most successful epicurean entrepreneur? Miami-Dade Clerk of Court records provide a strong hint.
Two default judgments have been filed this yearby Sysco South Florida against Eismann. He owed money from his failed Pacific Time and Pizza Volante restaurants -- both near 40th Street and North Miami Avenue in the Design District. Both judgments name Eismann, along with the respective restaurant, as defendant.
The smallest judgment is dated February 24. It names Forza Hospitality Group, d/b/a Pizzavolante AKA Pizza Volante in the amount of $2,503.55. The court file states Eismann failed to live up to a stipulation agreement signed in November. Arrangements had been made for the chef/owner to pay a mere $45.27 per week to Sysco until the balance was satisfied. Eismann never lived up to the agreement, and a writ of garnishment was issued this past March 10 to SunTrust Bank.
Sysco also came down on East/West Four Company, Inc. (d/b/a Pacific Time). This time, the stakes were higher. Sysco and Eismann filed a stipulation agreement with the court over a $10,654.96 debt on November 17, 2010. He was to pay $256.30 per week. Once again, Eismann failed to fork over the cash. A default judgment was filed this past March 9 in the amount of $9,924.56.
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Eismann's biggest problem might be his enormous waterfront home at 423 E. Rivo Alto Dr. on the Venetian Islands. In a filing dated January 22, 2011, mortgage holder BankUnited filed foreclosure proceedings against Eismann and wife Antonia to the tune of $1,384,368.89. According to Miami-Dade property records, the 4,900-square-foot residence was purchased in 1999 for $1,150,000. The house and property had a staggering market value of nearly $2.9 million in 2009. That fell to just more than $2.1 million in 2010.
Eismann, who is now working as a consultant, blames poor location for the demise of his restaurants. He has not responded to phone calls seeking comment about his legal problems. We will add his thoughts when we get a return call.
All of this, of course, might not bode well for Eismann and his family. Banks and corporations these days are less likely to extend credit to people with court records. If Eismann wants to get back in the restaurant game, he might find it more difficult to get financing.