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As Maple & Ash’s Lawsuits Continue, Attorney Blames Design Flaw for Cafe Closure

Plus, the Illinois Restaurant Association issues guidance regarding the review scam sweeping America

An empty cafe with wooden floors divided by round wooden tables, chairs, and banquettes.
Cafe Sophie has remained closed for nearly two months.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

As Maple & Ash co-founders continue their court battle over control of the parent company of the Gold Coast steakhouse, workers at the group’s newly launched cafe remain in limbo.

Cafe Sophie remains closed three months after its April opening at 847 N. State Street. The all-day restaurant, which What If Syndicate planned to scale with locations in Texas and other parts of the country, closed in late May with an Instagram post on June 5 providing the only update: “we’re putting our operations on pause for some ongoing maintenance issues.” Google has listed the cafe as “temporarily closed” for the last two months.

The Instagram post revealed nothing and didn’t address that cofounders David Pisor and James Lasky were in court in March. Pisor alleges Lasky locked him out of control of the company and barred him from the restaurants and financial records.

A court appearance on Thursday, July 14, added to the intrigue. Court documents reportedly declare the all-day cafe closed, according to Block Club Chicago. However, Lasky’s legal team reasons that the shutter is due to a design flaw. Given how various restaurants reconfigured to stay open during the height of the pandemic, and the city’s effortsto find design solutions to keep restaurants open, any claims of a design flaw are particularly dubious.

What If Syndicate executive chef Danny Grant had big plans for the European-influenced cafe, saying that it was the type of neighborhood spot every neighborhood would want. But the company’s legal problems have snarled that ambition.

On Friday, a What If Syndicate spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile, Pisor and Lasky are due back in court on Friday, August 19. In a separate case, nine of Maple & Ash’s investors are suing the two men, claiming they misappropriated $3 million.

Illinois Restaurant Association issues scam guidance

The online scam plaguing restaurants across the country has claimed another victim: Nella Pizza e Pasta in Hyde Park. A restaurant spokesperson says they received two emails demanding $75 Google Play gift cards in exchange forstaurant Association highlighted the scam in a newsletter saying it’s “aggressively working to combat this scam by working with elected officials and stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels.” They advise restaurants not to respond to extortion attempts and to report the emails to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC. The association’s Kara Highfill also asks to be contacted.

From Frangos to Lemonheads

The maker of Lemonheads is making a move. Ferrero is taking over the eighth and ninth floors above Macy’s on State Street, according to Crain’s. Some workers will relocate from the post office to a new 45,000-square-foot innovation center at 24 E. Washington Street.

Bruno Mars makes the rounds

On Wednesday, July 13, Grammy-winning singer Bruno Mars made several photo appearances at bars as he promoted rum. Mars’ itinerary included Uproar in Old Town, Fairmont Chicago near Millennium Park, and Nisos in West Loop. SelvaRey, Mars’ rum brand, is also the base of two special cocktails at Three Dots and a Dash in River North. There’s Disco Honey (SelvaRey White Rum, lime, pineapple, Martinique cane syrup, shaved honeydew ice) and the Regal (SelvaRey owners reserve, white port, red vermouth, pandan). The drinks are available for the “near future.”

Seven members of a kitchen staff, wearing white shirts and aprons, pose with pop star Bruno Mars who is smiling and wearing sunglasses and a hat.
Bruno Mars (wearing hat) poses with the kitchen crew from Nisos.
Parker Hospitality Group

Nella Pizza e Pasta

1125 East 55th Street, , IL 60615 (773) 643-0603 Visit Website


1252 North Wells Street, , IL 60610 (312) 643-0797 Visit Website

Three Dots and a Dash

435 North Clark Street, , IL 60654 (312) 610-4220 Visit Website

Maple & Ash

8 West Maple Street, , IL 60610 (312) 944-8888 Visit Website

Cafe Sophie

847 N. State Street, Chicago, IL (312) 262-7610 Visit Website


802 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607 Visit Website