The Budlong has closed in Lakeview after only four months and owner Jared Leonard said it’s due to an amicable separation agreement he’s reached with Phil Tadros. That means Budlong would no longer be affiliated with Tadros, the embattled owner of Bow Truss coffee. Tadros claims no agreement has been reached as he continues to feel the aftershocks of an unflattering July report in Crain’s that outlined several lawsuits from unhappy former business partners and vendors.
"What it came down to was their organization," Leonard said. "They just didn’t follow through on a lot of the commitments that they made."
Landlords and vendors refused to work with Leonard, as he said it was due to his partnership with Tadros. Leonard, who also owns Rub’s Backcountry Smokehouse, said the relationship began deteriorating two weeks after he opened his Nashville hot chicken stand inside the former Bunny, The Microbakery space. He’s not spoken with Iliana Regan, who hasn’t come out publicly to why her acclaimed bakery closed. However, the circumstances and short tenure for the Budlong and Bunny seemingly share parallels. Bunny also only lasted four months before it closed in a space that neighbors Tadros’ first Bow Truss.
Leonard claimed that Tadros, and his Funded Foods brand, violated their operating agreement. The marketing, website and back office support that was promised never arrived. Leonard was intentionally ambiguous on what Tadros did, saying that he wanted a clean slate and be free from Tadros’ baggage which also includes a domestic violence arrest. Tadros said those charges were later dropped.
Attorneys for both sides had been talking for two weeks, Leonard said. He first tried to negotiate with Tadros, but Tadros balked and claimed that he owns 50 percent of The Budlong. That claim angered Leonard, who had been trying to open a Lincoln Square restaurant for years before he met Tadros. After Bunny’s closure, Tadros was scouting around for a new partner, and the two bonded out of convenience. Tadros needed a tenant. Leonard needed a space.
There’s two separate LLCs in question, Leonard said. One that covers the Lakeview location—it was formerly for Bunny—for which Tadros is involved. The other covers the brand and future Budlongs. Tadros has no involvement in that one, records show.
"The Budlong existed before Phil Tadros and will exist long after Phil Tadros," Leonard added.
Tadros painted a different story, claiming credit for The Budlong’s success over at Revival Food Hall, saying he’s invested about $300,000 in the chicken shops. Leonard disputes that amount, saying that money was used for upkeep at the Lakeview location, a space that was originally intended for Tadros' Oyster Pail concept. Leonard claimed Tadros hasn't invested any money directly in The Budlong. He pointed out Tadros once more has control of that space's lease.
Meanwhile, Tadros said Leonard is hijacking the brand, and is panicked over the negative exposure.
"There’s no way in the world he can do that, that’s a fact," Tadros said. "It’s a very immature statement, you can’t just decide you that want to take the whole company and brand. It’s impossible."
Leonard, for his part, said Tadros had nothing to do with the Revival pop-up. That’s something backed up by Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden of 16" on Center. In a statement, they said they’ve never met Tadros and "they usually like to meet their partners" on business ventures. The Revival location of The Budlong also could be a permanent space, as they said they enjoy working with Leonard.
Another Budlong location in Rogers Park that Tadros announced was never close to fruition, Leonard said. That project is dead. The Budlong plans to open a Lincoln Park location at 1008 W. Armitage Ave., Leonard said. The restaurant will open before snow starts falling and without Tadros, though Tadros himself disagrees with that account.