10 Takeaways from the “Chronicle” Report on Oakland Horn Barbecue

Over the weekend, the beleaguered Horn Barbecue empire suffered another major blow. Saturday, the Chronicle of San Francisco released a lengthy investigation into the company’s financial woes and ongoing allegations from current and former employees. At the center of the latest development: Richard Lupio, former employee of Horn Barbecue, who tells the media he met Matt Horn while playing online Call of Duty on Xbox in 2018 and became a James Beard Award-nominated restaurant chef. The relationship deteriorated, however, as Lupio allegedly worked grueling hours for little pay.

As fans probably know, in late April, Horn Barbecue reopened in a new location, specifically the former Matty’s Old Fashioned space at 464 Eighth Street. The restaurant had been closed since late November, when a fire tore through the rear of the building, causing extensive damage that closed the business indefinitely. The fire happened on Tuesday, November 21, just one day after vandals tagged the restaurant and allegedly attempted to break into a trailer on site. In early May, Eater SF was the first to confirm that the Oakland Fire Department was investigating the fire as arson.

THE Chronic A recent report provides a comprehensive overview of the company’s financial problems, which have been making local headlines since 2022. the Chronicle estimates Horn’s liabilities at more than half a million dollars, with debts stemming from wage theft claims and lawsuits filed by a current business partner and a number of suppliers. Here are some of the key takeaways from Elena Kadvany’s reporting:

  1. According to Chronic reporting, former Horn Barbecue employee Richard Lupio cooked alongside owner Matt Horn from 2019 to March 2023 and was often the one tending to the restaurant’s smokers overnight and into the morning. Despite Lupio’s contributions to the restaurant’s operations during his two and a half years working at Horn Barbecue, he was never publicly credited in articles or accolades.
  2. In late May, Lupio and his wife Priscilla Elliott, who worked as a human resources contractor for Horn Barbecue starting in 2021, filed wage claims with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office against Horn’s companies. Lupio’s claim alleges that he was wrongly classified as a salaried employee, resulting in more than $200,000 in overtime and penalties. Elliot’s complaint accuses Horn of retaliation, alleging he let her go after she expressed concerns about bounced paychecks and employees not taking required meal breaks.
  3. THE the Chronicle estimates that Horn faces more than half a million dollars in claims stemming from a handful of wage theft complaints and lawsuits. Three lawsuits were settled, including meat distributor Golden Gate Meat Co. ($78,000), food distributor Bi-Rite ($95,000) and former Horn Hospitality Group Chairman David Kyuman Kim ($300 000 $). Four others are waiting.
  4. Horn, who has come under repeated scrutiny since a 2022 SFGATE investigation into alleged financial problems and questionable meat sourcing, now appears to be working with Sam Singer, a well-known corporate communications specialist. crisis based in San Francisco. Singer previously worked with Tartine when bakery employees organized to form a union; Anchor Brewing when it suddenly closed after more than a century in business; and Noosh, following the messy split between its chefs and owner in 2019.
  5. Matt Horn declined an interview request for the Chronic story but Singer says all allegations are false. Singer told the newspaper that disgruntled former employees exploited the Horns’ generosity and kindness. “Instead of working hard and taking advantage of the incredible opportunities afforded to them by the Horn family, they made false statements against the restaurant and the Horns,” Singer told the the Chronicle. “They don’t work there anymore because of their own failures. »
  6. THE the Chronicle spoke to three current and former employees who, along with Lupio, say they rarely saw Horn cooking at the restaurant. A former employee said Horn’s “sporadic” appearances often coincided with celebrity and media visits. In response, Singer called the accusations “bullshit,” adding that Horn “has earned the right to manage his presence as he sees fit.”
  7. THE the Chronicle reports that Horn’s financial struggles began in 2022. According to lawsuits and wage claims, that’s when the restaurant began missing vendor payments and bouncing paychecks. THE the Chronicle looked into messages indicating that owners sometimes sent money to staff via Apple Pay. According to bank statements reviewed by the newspaper, several of Lupio and Elliott’s checks bounced and funds were withdrawn from their accounts due to insufficient funds.
  8. According to the Chronicle, in October 2022, point-of-sale company Toast required a bank transfer of $5,800 to unlock payroll processing. The restaurant sent the money in time to pay staff, but according to text messages between Elliott and Nina Horn, Matt Horn’s business partner and wife, there were not enough funds left to make direct deposits to Horn Barbecue employees and by Kowbird. “We will essentially wait for Monday’s sales to cover the rest of the payroll,” the press release said. the Chronicle reports written by Nina Horn.
  9. Jim Hinds, an attorney hired to represent Horn’s former business partner David Kyuman Kim, claims he tried to bribe Matt Horn and force him to disclose his finances in court at least 10 times — without success. “Mr. Horn is very good at being a ghost,” Hinds told the the Chronicle. (Hinds tells the outlet that Horn has since reached a confidential agreement with Kim.)
  10. In February, Horn received $100,000 in federal funds distributed by Alameda County — which is in addition to about $500,000 in pandemic grants and loans, according to the the Chronicle. The couple also raised more than $130,000 via GoFundMe after the original Horn Barbecue restaurant burned down in November 2023. The fire is now being investigated as arson.

Correction: May 28, 2024, 3:45 p.m. This article has been corrected to reflect that, according to attorney Jim Hinds, last month Matt Horn and David Kyuman Kim reached a confidential settlement with a payment schedule.