Bizarre Tale of a Russian Restaurateur
BROOKLYN (CN) - A billionaire restaurateur from Moscow with alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to discipline a worker who poisoned a fish-allergic waitress by slipping fish sauce in her sloppy Joe, a manager claims in a tell-all lawsuit.
In her complaint in Kings County Court, Maryanne Storms claims she began working at defendant Betony, a fine-dining restaurant in midtown Manhattan, in December 2013.
The restaurant was brought to Manhattan by defendant Maison Dellos Group, a Russian corporation "with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin," which is owned by Andrey Dellos, a billionaire and "famed restaurateur" in Moscow, according to the complaint.
Storms claims that Dellos' longtime business partner, Arkady Novikov, is a member of Putin's "inner circle," which "allows him to maintain a near monopoly of high-end restaurants in Moscow."
In fact, Novikov owns 50 "luxurious restaurants" in Moscow, Storms says in the complaint.
With Novikov and Putin's backing, Storms claims, Maison Dellos Group began opening several more restaurants in Moscow beginning in 1999.
The company then "sought to infiltrate New York City with its first high-end restaurant" called Brasserie Pushkin in 2012. The restaurant, "which was grossly overpriced," was a "disaster" and went out of business in less than a year, Storms says in the complaint.
The Pushkin was revamped into Betony, which Storms claims also struggled to turn a profit.
Storms, who worked as a private events manager at Betony, says she was promised $35,000 a year plus 2.5 percent commission for each event held at the restaurant.
She claims that Betony's general manager, defendant Eamon Rockey, cheated her out of commissions.
Storms says she blew the whistle, and an "infuriated" Rockey immediately retaliated against her, screamed at her and "engage[ed] in threatening and abusive conduct."
Storms claims Rockey also assaulted his pastry chef, and threatened several employees.
He then targeted a waitress - not Storms - as part of a "sadistic effort to make her quit," according to the complaint. Storms claims that Rockey or someone he instructed put fish sauce in the waitress's sloppy Joe during a family meal at the restaurant, knowing that she was allergic to fish.
The waitress was rushed to the emergency room, Storms says.
Storms also says Rockey once grabbed her arm with great force and tried to pull her into a locker room near the kitchen, but she thrust him off and ran away.
She claims company owners failed to take any action against Rockey for assaulting her.
Storms says she has not been able to return to work out of fear, and that her pay and commissions have been withheld.
She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Derrick Storms with Storms & Associates.