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Houston chef Don Bowie has been sued by partners including Andre Johnson and Akon over allegations of missing money

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – A new Washington Corridor steakhouse is at risk of closing its doors amid a legal battle with investors, according to lawyers.

Chef Don Bowie, co-owner of Rare Steakhouse, which opened in March, is being sued by his partners Akon and Houston Texans legend Andre Johnson.

In a civil lawsuit filed in May, the duo allege hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing.

Johnson and Akon contributed approximately $1.2 million to fund the restaurant, and Bowie was to give an additional $700,000. Although the investors wrote in the lawsuit, they don’t believe the chef ever gave any money.

When asked if all the money was gone, Rusty Hardin, who represents Johnson and Akon, replied: “Well, we’ve got to go to him after that question. We can’t find where it is. That’s one of the things we’re working with the forensic accountant for.”

Months after the restaurant opened, plaintiffs said they found employees and vendors were not being paid on time and some had not received payment.

“The near-complete lack of cash deposits at a restaurant — and one that actively encourages diners to use cash — is highly suspicious and suggests embezzlement or theft by Bowie or others,” attorneys for Akon and Johnson wrote in the civil action.

They said bank records showed unexplained transfers from the restaurant’s accounts. Lawyers believe the money made at Rare will be used to fund Bowie’s other restaurant and for personal use.

“I think he got into a situation where everything is closing in and people are starting to find out the truth,” Hardin said.

In a court filing in response to the lawsuit, Bowie’s attorneys said he denied the allegations against him.

The claims regarding Rare are similar to those made by his business partner at the popular Midtown restaurant, Taste Bar and Kitchen.

Dallas attorney Kevin Kelley also filed a lawsuit against Bowie in 2020, calling it a “classic case of restaurant manager embezzlement.”

According to the lawsuit, Kelly contributed the entire $220,000 to open the restaurant.

Bank records show that Bowie made unauthorized in-person ATM withdrawals within a week of transferring the first installment, the lawsuit says.

Kelley hired a forensic attorney who he said uncovered $900,000 in missing persons in just over a year. His attorney included a breakdown in the civil file showing the accountant’s findings. They allege Bowie took cash receipts and valet payments, hosted large private events with celebrities, and pocketed the profits, giving money to family and friends.

Bowie denies all claims against him in a court case. Instead, he claims Kelley’s appointed accountant neglected the well-being of Taste Bar and Kitchen.

ABC13 also found records showing two Bowie-owned limited companies that received more than $650,000 in loans related to the coronavirus-related Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that were earmarked for payroll.

Kelley said in his lawsuit that he was not consulted about the loan he took out from the chef for his restaurant and did not know what the money was spent on.

Bowie is also involved in a legal battle with the landlord of this popular Midtown eatery.

Amir Ansari said he had been trying to evict the chef for non-payment of rent since March. He attempted to lock out Bowie and the Taste staff but was able to regain entry.

In claims by the landlord in civil filings, the chef made unauthorized additions to the building, including adding a second-story terrace.

Ansari hired a structural engineer who inspected the Taste Bar and Kitchen in March and his report found that there was a significant amount of rotting wood on the building and believes part of the building could collapse due to the extent of the structural damage.

The landlord took his frustration to the Houston City Council.

“I am stopped by armed guards present there,” Ansari told the council. “So I’m asking HPD to protect me so I don’t get shot.”

“But if you have a right, you have to go to court and the judge has to be the arbiter of this dispute,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in response. “I understand what you’re saying. Let me speak to the legal department.”

In court filings, Bowie alleges that he paid the rent and that Ansari breached their lease.

The chef’s partners at Rare Steakhouse said they were unaware of the legal troubles Bowie was involved in before doing business with him.

“I think at the end of the day[Bowie]leveled that place and the partners wanted to see if they could save it,” Hardin said. “They wanted to see if they could save the restaurant, if they could save the jobs for the people who were there. It looks like that won’t be possible.”

ABC13 spent more than a week reaching out to Bowie and his attorney, Ben Hall, for their side of the story. Bowie responded late Thursday afternoon and said he was keen to clear up speculation. We’ll update the story when that happens.

In this case, no criminal charges were filed. Houston police said they could neither confirm nor deny the claims.

To learn more about this story, follow Mycah Hatfield on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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https://abc13.com/houston-chef-sued-don-bowie-by-partners-missing-money-lawsuit/11991296/ Houston chef Don Bowie has been sued by partners including Andre Johnson and Akon over allegations of missing money

Dais Johnston

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