Chicago’s Maple & Ash has consistently been called one of the best steakhouses in the nation (including by us), but that doesn’t keep the restaurant from staying out of trouble.
In a lawsuit filed last month, investors in Maple & Ash claim that the steakhouse misspent funds received through the pandemic Paycheck Protection Program, WBEZ reported recently. The seven plaintiffs say that the restaurant spent at least some of that money—meant to pay workers and keep restaurants afloat as Covid-19 forced eateries to shut down—on extravagances like private planes and country-club dues. (The claims are part of a lawsuit more broadly addressing the potential dissolution of Maple & Ash management.)
“The salacious allegations contained within this frivolous and vexatious lawsuit are nothing more than a deliberate attempt by Unitholders and their attorneys to repackage a frivolous lawsuit that was filed last year,” Doug Wexler, an attorney for Maple & Ash’s James Lasky, said in an email to Robb Report. “The PPP funds were properly applied for and were forgiven.” (Michael Forde, an attorney for the investors, declined to comment.)
The prior lawsuit mentioned refers to one that the investors brought against the restaurant in 2022 for allegedly using $3 million given by them for Maple & Ash on other restaurants instead, Eater Chicago reported on Monday. Along with that legal saga, the restaurant has been embroiled in a number of controversies: The co-owners Lasky and David Pisor were themselves battling in court over access to funds, and restaurant workers were allegedly (and controversially) given early access to Covid-19 vaccines, thanks to the restaurant being popular with executives in the health-care industry.
Maple & Ash first opened in Chicago in 2015, becoming known for its clubby atmosphere and modern take on the traditional steakhouse. It’s long been one of the highest-grossing restaurants in the country, coming in fourth last year, with more than $30 million in sales. In January, Lasky and Pisor agreed to split up the restaurant’s parent company, What If Syndicate, with Lasky gaining control of Maple & Ash and Pisor taking over the Etta group of restaurants. Maple & Ash also has a location in Scottsdale, Arizona.
As the current lawsuit winds its way through the legal system, it may put a bit of a damper on Maple & Ash’s never-ending party.