Now, here's a foolproof way to land coverage on Eater. Throw a tantrum, break a camera, then threaten a lawsuit.
Barefoot Cafe closed over a year ago, and ownership has been reimagining the space ever since. Construction slowed in the last couple of months, and recently an awning with the name Duplex appeared. When Eater drove by on Wednesday, we were hoping to meet one of the owners. We asked a gentleman driving out of the parking lot if he was involved in the restaurant. He said yes, but was in a hurry. We handed over a business card and asked if he would share his number. He did. So, we called yesterday morning around 10:30AM. Our contact agreed to meet us at the space. We see a lot of crazy stuff on the job, but what happened next is one for the Eater story books.
Our contact's name is Ressul Rassallat, a fine gentleman, perfectly mannered, professional, and generous with his time. He offered to give us a tour of Duplex, so we followed him inside through the rear kitchen door, stopping to greet a cook inside while passing through into the dining area. The remodeled space is beautiful and we listened and asked questions as Rassallat described the concept, the chef (David Gussin is no longer involved) and finally the owner, John Makhani. Rassallat himself is a fine dining chef, and the executive chef of Makhani's projects.
We were led upstairs where the finished space is breezy, with a library-like bar to one side. The furnishings are modern and appear Moroccan-inspired. The color scheme is beige, involving dark woods, and colorful book covers. New windows allow the space to feel like an open-air patio. We asked if we could take photos and were granted permission immediately.
As we continued to photograph the space from different angles, another man appeared through a doorway, and immediately began shouting, "NO, NO, no you must stop right now, you are not allowed in here." He grew more angry with each passing moment. "How did you get in here? Give me your camera," he grabbed our point-and-shoot camera and began pressing all of the buttons, handling it roughly and cracking the viewfinder. "I'm confiscating your camera," he announced. While we protested, and offered to delete the photographs, he began shouting to Rassallat in Farsi. We tried to explain that we had been invited in. Rassallat, meanwhile, tried to calm Makhani, explaining that we were from Eater LA.
"A site called Urban Daddy has our exclusive, and you are not allowed in here, if you publish ANYTHING about ANYTHING I will sue you and sue your website. I swear to God." We had to ask why he might sue us for information we obtained voluntarily. "You have written false and bad things about us," he insisted, still shouting, growing red in the face. "NOTHING you write is true, we will give you the information when we are ready!" We explained that our editorial policy invites readers and business owners to correct any erroneous information and that we would be happy to make corrections immediately. "I don't have time for that!" Makhani shouted. We clarified that we had asked for the information and it had been voluntarily told to us. We weren't publishing anything made-up.
When we tried to get our camera back, with Rassallat's help and calming words, Makhani grabbed our purse, pulling and preventing us from leaving. "You're on my property illegally! I am going to call the police right now!" We insisted upon leaving, after attempting to erase the images off of the camera in front of the angry restaurateur. But by then Makhani had broken our camera. We unlocked a patio door to escape out to the rear staircase, running from the shouting owner. Rassallat, a vision of calm, tried to console us, and apologized for Makhani's behavior, explaining "He's under a lot of stress, please don't write anything about the restaurant. Please don't publish the photos."
Eater has decided not to take any legal action against John Makhani or his business, but has chosen to publish this account instead.
·Duplex Posts Signage, Opening Date Not Yet Set [~ELA~]
·Travis Lorton Leaves The Strand House, David Gussin IN at Duplex [~ELA~]