Restaurants

Dallas Restaurant Drama Pits High-Profile Founder Against His Former Business Partners in $1 Million-Plus Lawsuit: Inside Mico Rodriguez’s Food Fight

BY // 04.06.18

Mico Rodriguez, the high-profile founder of Dallas’ Mesero Restaurant Group, has left the company and is now facing a major lawsuit from his former business partners. The limited partnership that owns the company is seeking a temporary restraining order to cut off Rodriguez’s access to company accounts, and suing him for more than $1 million.

The suit, filed in a Dallas County district court this week, accuses Rodriguez of stealing “hundreds of thousands of dollars from his partners and effectively [treating] the partnership bank account as his personal piggy bank” as the Morning News first reported.

The filing claims that Rodriguez demanded to be paid a salary of roughly $4,000 per month, which violated the terms of the limited partnership. He is also accused of improperly collecting exorbitant licensing fees of more than $350,000, and withdrawing large sums of money from the limited partnership bank account.

A second filing accuses Rodriguez of violating a non-compete clause by providing services to M Crowd Restaurant Group, Inc (which includes his former restaurants Mi Cocina and Taco Diner), as well as signing a lease for a new restaurant concept called Sensero.

Rodriguez’s lawyer, Larry Friedman, claims that the company attempted to fire the restaurateur after he returned from cancer treatment in December. The company then continued to use trademarks owned by Rodriguez after he was ousted, according to Friedman. Friedman says that Rodriguez and the partners have been in negotiations over the “wrongful termination” for the past several months.

Friedman tells D Magazine that he is “shocked that filed a lawsuit in the middle of negotiations,” and that he wants “to know why they’re bullying Mico.”

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However, a statement released by the restaurant group paints a conflicting picture.  

“In early 2017, after multiple extended absences, it was decided with Mico that he would no longer serve as CEO of Mesero Restaurant Group,” writes Trey Dyer, president and chief executive of Mesero Restaurant Group.

“More recently, Mico requested that the Mesero ownership release him from his partnership obligations with the organization and buy him out. Throughout this process, we have taken great pains to work with Mico in hopes of finding a solution that would allow us to end our partnership on friendly terms.

“Unfortunately, after several months of discussions, we have not been able to reach an agreement to conclude our business together and furthermore, we have learned that Mico has violated our trust and the terms of our agreement on multiple occasions. As a result of Mico’s actions, we regrettably have determined it is necessary to pursue legal action.”

The sides are in court for a hearing to determine whether or not the restaurant group is granted the temporary restraining order.

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