Predictably, Phil Tadros has filed a lawsuit against his former business partner at The Budlong. The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, claimed Leonard violated an operating agreement with Tadros that included a non-compete clause, seeks to permanently bar Leonard from using the Budlong name or operating a similar Nashville hot chicken restaurant. Though not abundantly clear in the 36-page complaint, it appears Tadros has continued interest in using the Budlong branding.
Tadros' lawsuit also seeks access to Leonard’s financials, as he claimed Leonard has kept those records to himself since August. Last month, Leonard closed the Lakeview Budlong, saying he reached a separation agreement with Tadros’ attorneys. For years, Leonard had developed The Budlong, with the intent of opening a restaurant in Lincoln Square. When those plans snarled, Tadros offered him a convenient way to open in Lakeview. Tadros has since claimed he is co-owner and has invested $300,000 in the business.
The relationship crumbled for various reasons. Leonard said his employees, vendors and landlords didn’t want work with The Budlong due to the association with Tadros. Eventually, Leonard plotted an escape with plans to open Budlongs in Lincoln Park and elsewhere.
Tadros countered, saying that Leonard was contractually bound to work with him. If Leonard wanted to keep working with the Budlong name, he couldn’t leave. He chalked up Leonard's reaction as a "tantrum," and said Leonard doesn't have the money to buy him out of his company.
A second Budlong, inside Revival Food Hall, has continued to operate in The Loop. Leonard texted back a statement upon reading the lawsuit. He said he hasn't been served yet, and doubts Tadros will follow through with the lawsuit. A court date has yet to be assigned.
"Phil Tadros is tirelessly chasing after my brand & trying to ride the coattails of my hard work," Leonard wrote. "I'm busy running my restaurants, and now we can let the courts & attorneys decide how to handle Phil. Back to hot chicken & barbecue for me. Who's hungry?"
Tadros has gained a reputation to be difficult work with, rubbing many that he worked with the wrong way. Crain's covered much of those problems in a report earlier this year. Leonard said he didn’t want to work with him anymore. Before The Budlong, the Lakeview space housed Bunny, The Microbakery, as Tadros teamed with Iliana Regan (Elizabeth). That relationship also went sour. Tadros said that Bunny was too costly to run in the space, and that’s why it closed in April. Regan had been quiet about her ordeal with Tadros, but she responded with a brief email shorty after The Budlong’s closure. She said she wanted the ordeal behind her.
"He has his own reality," Regan wrote of Tadros. "I and the people close to me know what happened and that's all that matters."
Read the full text of Tadros' lawsuit below.