Celebrity chef José Andrés will be closing his restaurants inside the SLS Beverly Hills, the Bazaar and Somni, due to a lawsuit filed by the hotel’s owners, Sunworld International, that sought to terminate the consulting agreement with Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup, reports the LA Times.
Andrés made a big splash in Los Angeles back in 2008 when he opened the Bazaar as the molecular gastronomy-focused, Spanish-influenced ground floor restaurant designed by Philippe Starck at the SLS Hotel. The chef later opened Saam at the Bazaar, an exclusive tasting menu hidden behind the main dining room, which later transformed into Somni in 2018. The Bazaar received a rare four-star review from LA Times critic S. Irene Virbila in 2009 while Somni achieved a two Michelin star rating last year under the guidance of chef Aitor Zabala.
Sam Nazarian’s nightlife and restaurant group SBE founded SLS Hotel in 2008, later selling the property in 2015 to multi-level marketing and hotel company Sunrider International (which operates a hotel group called Sunworld Dynasty, hence the interchangeability of Sunrider and Sunworld in statements).
Sunworld’s lawsuit alleges that ThinkFoodGroup failed to “address structural, cost-cutting measures” and propagated “detrimental and negative statements about Sun World” to staff. However, ThinkFoodGroup says the termination of its consulting contract is an effort to make the property more appealing to another buyer, who would prefer not to have Bazaar and Somni as its restaurants. ThinkFoodGroup responded the lawsuit with the following statement:
Sunworld’s termination of the long standing, world-class operations of the Bazaar restaurant at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills on August 6 is without merit and follows a letter writing campaign from Sunworld, carried out by its lawyers during the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging defaults that were obviously incapable of being cured while our employees lived through shelter-in-place orders...Both lawsuits and related terminations are part of an effort, which Sunworld recently acknowledged, to sell the hotel to another entity that would pay more for a blank slate property.
ThinkFoodGroup’s statement continues:
Now is the time that we should be working together, not filing unfounded claims as a way to position the property for sale that will close yet more restaurants and leave employees without jobs and, equally important, our city without another restaurant that provided a place to gather and celebrate.
The closures of the Bazaar and Somni are a yet another blow to LA’s dining scene, currently under extreme duress due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has closed dining rooms and resulted in economic uncertainty. Somni in particular was riding a wave of positive media attention that placed it on the international dining circuit. The prominent closures follow the permanent shutters of Broken Spanish, Trois Mec, Pacific Dining Car, Here’s Looking at You, Auburn, Bon Temps, and Jun Won, among dozens of others.