In the cover of night, the Mt. Vernon at the Wharf restaurant owners abruptly closed down their North Shore Road institution early last week, removing equipment and leaving a lot of angry people in their wake.
Food vendors from Revere and surrounding areas report being owed up to $100,000, and at this point, don’t see that money ever being re-paid.
“This could literally put me out of business once I feel the effects of it after Christmas during the first part of next year,” said Joe Dusvitch of Revere’s Pines River Fish Market. “I just got out of a meeting with them and it was pretty much take the beating and be happy with it…I have a lawyer and I offered to take 40 cents on the dollar and work out a payment plan, but they have no intention of paying this and say they have no way to pay it. I think they believe they’re going to walk out of this smelling like roses and not pay anybody, not knowing that the little guy like me will be put out of business with this kind of hit. They’re low-class people.”
Rumor quickly became truth and building owner Victor Molle asked the City to get involved, and Inspectional Services Director Nick Catinazzo did investigate the situation.
The Revere location and the Lynnfield location did indeed close abruptly, but the Somerville Mt. Vernon Restaurant – the original location – did stay open.
Brett Henry, manager of the Revere location, could not be contacted by phone, and an e-mail seeking comment was not returned in time for publication.
The Wharf building owner, Victor Molle, said during a License Commission hearing that he preferred not to comment on the matter – despite allegedly being owed several months rent on the Revere location.
Catinazzo said he looked into the matter last Tuesday, and issued a Cease and Desist order because the owners had removed and unhooked a gas stove without getting a permit.
Other than that, there wasn’t much the City could do.
“The owner of the building, Victor Molle, came in to see us and he informed me that the owners of the Mt. Vernon came in the middle of the night and removed all their equipment,” said Catinazzo. “We did get access to the building and were able to issue a Cease and Desist because of the situation with the gas stove. That was pretty much the end of our involvement because it was really a legal issue.”
Catinazzo said that while he was in the building, they did hear vendors calling to ask for money. He said conditions weren’t that bad inside, but it did look as if things had been moved quickly.
Last Thursday, at the License Commission meeting, members of the board put an item on their agenda to discuss the Mt. Vernon’s various licenses, which includes a coveted all alcohol restaurant license.
Without much discussion at all, the board voted unanimously to suspend all licenses at the establishment until further notice.
No one from the restaurant showed up at the hearing.
Meanwhile, jilted vendors have apparently been meeting with the owners at the Somerville location all week.
News has not been good, according to several sources.
Signs of trouble actually began showing up early this year when G/J Towing – personal friends of the Henry family – erected a sign on their Rt. 1A property proclaiming in bold letters ‘Boycott the Wharf’ and that the Mt. Vernon doesn’t pay its bills.
The rift in that friendship, sources said, came when the owner of G/J recommended vendors do business with the company, only later finding out that the vendors – who were also friends – had allegedly been stiffed by the restaurant.
Another Revere vendor, James Carter of the Pines, said he has provided veal to the Mt. Vernon for many years.
He indicated that he is owed money, but he preferred not to comment publicly on the matter.
The same was the case for the Paul Marks Company in Everett’s Produce Center, which apparently also has an outstanding account with the restaurant. In a phone interview, they indicated they didn’t want to comment.
Dusvitch said he is owed between $80,000 to $100,000 by the company, which he now thinks is probably gone to the wind.
He provided lobster to all three Mt. Vernon locations, and had done business with the previous owners of The Wharf for many years.
“The Mt. Vernon had that big twin lobster special and 90 percent of the lobsters in their place came from my shop,” he said.
He indicated that he wasn’t surprised that the company hit a giant wall, noting that there were signs of trouble for the last five months. However, he didn’t think that they would let the place go broke and leave under the cover of night.
“I guess shame on me for allowing them to go that long without paying, but when you think someone is an honest business person and will do what they say, you give them leeway,” he said. “I thought they would do what it took to keep it going and pay people. They own a lot of real estate and they have the Somerville location and a lot of equipment…Instead, they just give you the ‘Goodfellas’ line, ‘We did what we had to do and there’s nothing we can do now.’”
Dusvitch stressed that the Pines River Fish Market has been in business 50 years, and he has been there 20 years.
“This has never happened; nothing ever like this,” he said.
City stands to pay a price as well
The City of Revere was also left holding the bag when it came to those who are owed money by the Mt. Vernon at the Wharf, and a number of officials want answers as to how the restaurant kept its licenses despite scamming the City nine months ago.
City Finance Director George Anzuoni told the Journal that the Mt. Vernon had owed the City $33,000 for an unpaid water bill at the end of last year. Needing to renew their licenses for the coming year, the company produced a $33,000 check to take care of the bill and remove the roadblocks that were in the way of their license renewals.
However, Anzuoni said that once they got their licenses in hand, the company stopped payment on the check – leaving the City holding the bag.
Nevertheless, nothing was done about the situation until just this past week at the September License Commission meeting.
The restaurant continued to operate unabated for months despite still owing the bill and despite having perpetrated a scam on the City.
At-large Council candidate Billy Bell tried to bring the matter into the public sphere at last Thursday’s License Commission meeting, but was blocked from speaking.
“I want to know why they were not treated like every other ratepayer in the City,” he said afterward. “Why do they not have to pay their bills and regular people do?”
Mayor Tom Ambrosino said that it was a loophole that the City never anticipated.
“I’ve talked with the Director of Finance and we are looking at ways to make sure no licensee is able to pull that scam on us,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll be able to figure out a way to eliminate that loophole…This is a situation where we’ve got to make sure that if a check bounces and it’s a licensee, we’re not only doing what we normally do…but also we’re notifying the License Commission. That’s a step that hasn’t been done in the past.”
A similar situation unfolded with the commuter parking license of Wonderland Greyhound Park several years ago, where they were able to renew their license with the Commission despite owing more than $500,000 in back taxes on the property.
All indications are the building owner will now be stuck with the $33,000 water bill.