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3 LDV Hospitality Operations at Buckhead Atlanta Pass Liquor License Reviews

July 02, 2014

Buckhead View

Three food and beverage operations of LDV Hospitality, a New York-based restaurant company that will be opening its first Atlanta market operations at Buckhead Atlanta in September, got approval of their liquor license applications last night at the Neighborhood Planning Unit-B meeting.

The three are American Cut, an upscale steak house concept; Lugo Caffee, more of an Italian-style casual restaurant, and Corso Coffee, an Italian-style coffee bar with a New York ambiance offering espresso based beverages, light comfort fare including breakfast pastries, salads, and paninis, and wines by the quartino.

One aspect of the presentation seemed to take the members of the NPU-B Safety Committee by surprise: the introduction of the agent for the liquor licenses for all three establishments, Mike Ware (listed on the meeting agenda as William Ware Jr.).

One member of the committee recognized Ware as having been before the committee some months ago as the “agent” on the liquor license application for True Food Kitchen, the new restaurant that just opened at Lenox Square.

Attorney Kevin Leff, of Buckhead’s Sard & Leff, LLC, who was representing LDV Hospitality’s applications for the restaurants before the NPU-B committee, explained that Ware is a consultant who has been hired by LDV as an employee, with the title of director of compliance, to secure the liquor licenses.

Leff explained that the liquor license process takes quite some time to complete and a restaurant or bar needs to begin that process long before permanent managers and staff are hired. Leff said his firm came up with the concept of using a consultant as a “temporary agent” to facilitate the application process.

Leff said Atlanta’s code requires that the consultant be hired as an employee—even if only for a temporary period. He said Ware will be the agent on the license until the restaurants open, at which time Leff and LDV Hospitality will return to the NPU committee to seek a “change of agent” for each. Leff and Ware both said this is not something new…that it has been going on for many years.

Ware apparently has worked for years as a license investigator for both the state and city, but there was no indication he has ever actually
managed a restaurant or bar operation after opening. He is not an officer or manager for LDV Hospitality, and will not likely be a manager of any of the three properties at Buckhead Atlanta.

Ware and Leff were asked the usual questions by the committee members: Have you ever had any liquor license violations? What kind of training does the bar and wait staff receive, etc.   There was no one to answer, however, if there have ever been any problems with other LDV Hospitality properties, which are primarily located in New York and the northeast.

NPU-B chair Andrea Bennett raised the point during the discussion of using Ware as a consultant at the agent on four applications for two different companies—one out of New York and one out of California (True Foods)—is a process that could at some time be abused.

Bennett made it very clear—on more than one instance—that she was not suggesting anything was awry in the case of Ware with LDV Hospitality and the previous case with True Foods, or with Leff using this process to obtain the licenses. She assured both Leff and Ware she felt their applications were above board.

However, Bennett and others on the Public Safety Committee seemed unaware that the city code allowed the use of “temporary agents” to obtain the licenses, with the understanding those temporary agents would be replaced by actual agents when the restaurant or bar actually opened. She indicated that process should possibly be reviewed by the city.

American Cut actually was applying for three liquor licenses, because the restaurant will be located on three levels at the corner of Peachtree and Pharr roads in the Buckhead Atlanta multi-use development of OliverMcMillan.

All of the LDV Hospitality liquor applications were approved by both the committee and NPU-B board.

Ware told the NPU-B committee members that the opening of American Cut has been delayed due to design and construction changes that have been made to the Spanx headquarters offices, which are located in the same building of the Buckhead Atlanta project.

A liquor license application also was approved Tuesday night for Meehan’s Public House, which is moving into the former Aspen Bartini space at 322 East Paces Ferry Road. The agent on that license is Chris Segal, who attended the meeting.