Trouble at True Thai
If you've gone to True Thai recently, you may have noticed some changes -- a lack of beer and wine on the menu, for example -- and maybe a little tension in the air.
Anna Fieser, owner of the awarding-winning Thai restaurant is in the midst of a contentious legal dispute with her former restaurant manager, Corey Whitechurch.
According to Fieser, Whitechurch had been her housekeeper for over 8 years prior to working as the restaurant's manager. There are differing accounts of both the nature of Whitechurch's job at True Thai and how much he was to be compensated. Fieser claims he was an unpaid consultant; Whitechurch maintains that Fieser agreed to pay him the $51,000 in checks he wrote himself, that he signed a contract entitling him to $100,000 a year... and that she once threw knives at him during a dispute.
What is undisputed, however, is that True Thai is in a big financial pickle, big enough to have threatened their liquor license and even big enough to raise the possibility of eviction.
Fieser says she became aware of the alleged fraud when her accountant contacted her in April to alert her to some financial irregularities. These irregularities included delinquent bills owed to everyone from the food and wine distributors, to the landlord, all the way to the state of Minnesota. At the same time, Whitechurch was allegedly paying himself as much as $20,000 a week.
When Fieser confronted Whitechurch, who had been in charge of virtually every aspect of the restaurant's financial business, "he stopped answering his phone and moved to Georgia," she says.
According to Fieser, she was able to secure the funds needed to maintain the license throughout the ordeal, but starting in July, the unpaid beer and wine distributors had stopped delivering. The result for customers was virtually the same.
The temporary lack of alcohol on the menu resulted in a noticeable and immediate impact on the business.
"Some would just turn around and leave if there is no beer, no wine. We'd tell them, and they'd just leave."
The take-out and delivery business, on the other hand, saw no negative impact. As of this week, there has been some progress and dine-in customers can finally have a beer with their Pad Thai. Unfortunately, the account status with the wine distributor will keep vino off the menu until further notice. Regarding what comes next for True Thai, Fieser admits it's uncertain.
"It's a day-to-day struggle," she says, adding that she's also considering downsizing the restaurant and focusing more on take-out and delivery. "We were about to be evicted. I borrowed money from relatives, everyone, just to stay open. I don't know what I'm going to do next."
Corey Whitechurch in the meantime has a counter-claim which not only suggests that the money he collected was legitimately owed to him, but that he in fact had rescued the restaurant from financial ruin.
Neither Whitechurch nor his attorney could be reached for comment.
An earlier version of this post stated "Whitechurch alleges that she agreed to pay him $5,000 a week, almost $100,000 a year... and that she once threw knives at him during a dispute." This was unclear. Whitechurch maintains that Fieser agreed to pay him the $51,000 in checks he wrote himself. He has also submitted to the court contracts, allegedly signed by True-Thai co-owner Charles Whitney, entitling him to $100,000 a year. The post has been updated to reflect this.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Minneapolis & St. Paul dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.