Josh Thoma accused of financial mismanagement; out at Barrio, La Grassa

Rick Nelson reports a big scoop on a local restaurateur accused of "cooking the books." Josh Thoma--James Beard Award winner Tim McKee's partner in La Belle Vie, Solera, and Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque, who more recently entered partnerships with the white-hot Barrio (with McKee) and La Grassa restaurants--stands accused of improperly transferring funds between some of the restaurants to the tune of $100,000. Nelson explains:

Last fall, Thoma funneled money out of the then-new and instantly popular Bar La Grassa and into two restaurants -- Solera and Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque -- via La Belle Vie. Now Thoma's partnership at Bar La Grassa is history, and he and his longtime business partner, chef Tim McKee, are no longer managing Barrio, the standing-room only tequila bars in both Twin Cities downtowns.

Thoma describes the situation as a misunderstanding and claims he wasn't directly involved:

"It was one of those things where I told the accountant to make it work," said Thoma. "To a degree, I didn't know how much was going where and when, although ultimately I'm responsible."

Isaac Becker, chef/co-owner of Bar La Grassa, makes a harsher assessment, as does La Grassa/Barrio co-owner Ryan Burnet:

"Josh was kicked out of the restaurant, the locks were changed and access to the bank accounts were altered," Becker said.

"[Thoma and McKee] were terminated due to mismanagement and gross negligence," said Burnet.

No criminal charges were filed and Thoma and McKee repaid the funds by relinquishing their stake in Barrio, and Thoma's equity in Bar La Grassa. Thoma and McKee are no longer involved with managing either Barrio or La Grassa.

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Barrio Tequila Bar

235 E. 6th St.
St. Paul, MN 55101


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