A U.S. Trustee for the former Gordos restaurant in Hawthorne has sued the owners of a new restaurant for at least $500,000 for allegedly diverting assets.
Mark S. Tulis filed an adversary proceeding in federal bankruptcy court against Gordos North Restaurant Corp., the new entity, and Michael J. Schliman, Elizabeth (Lisa) Schliman and Joanne Piazza, accusing them of trademark infringement, corporate waste and other charges.
Gordos North misappropriated the “locally famous and iconic “Gordos” trademark,” the complaint states, to cause former customers to believe that the new restaurant was Gordos’ successor.
Gordos in Hawthorne closed last February. Nine days later Gordos North was established about 1.3 miles away in Thornwood.
Michael Schliman was president and sole shareholder of the original Gordos. His wife, Lisa, and Piazza are shareholders and officers of Gordos North.
But Tulis alleges that Michael Schliman dominated and controlled both restaurants and that he diverted assets from the original to defraud his former landlord and other creditors.
The restaurant’s provenance can be traced to the 1970s, when Gordon Kreuger opened Gordo’s Colonial Tavern on Commerce Street in Hawthorne. Around 1980, he renamed it as Gordos.
Michael Schliman was employed as a bartender in 1998, according to the complaint, and he bought the business from Kreuger and Arthur D. Greason Jr. for $560,000 in 2006.
Kreuger and Greason still owned the property and leased the premises to Schliman.
Gordos defaulted on the rent, and in 2018 Mount Pleasant Justice Court approved an eviction.
Gordos Restaurant Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, “on an emergency basis,” according to a court filing, “to avoid the imminent threat of eviction.”
Gordos declared assets of $32,500 and liabilities of $433,693. It claimed in a court filing that it had been trying to buy the property but was unable to perform its side of an agreement because Michael Schliman was hospitalized.
Bankruptcy court denied Gordos’ request to stop the eviction.
Then last February Gordos asked the court to dismiss its bankruptcy case, on the grounds that it had no assets for carrying out a reorganization plan.
Kreuger, the landlord, asked that the case be converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation, so that a trustee could be appointed to investigate Gordos’ finances. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert D. Drain agreed.
Tulis argues in his complaint that the lack of assets resulted from diversion of the restaurant’s equipment, cash and goodwill. At least $48,000 had been withdrawn. Equipment, cutlery, china, glassware, blenders and seven large screen televisions were removed. And no one had bought the Gordos trademark.
Tulis accuses Gordos North of several trademark violations, deceptive acts and practices, unfair competition, improper transfers of assets and unjust enrichment. He accuses Michael Schliman of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of duty to Gordos’ creditors, “by engaging in self-dealing and by utilizing his position … to obtain personal profit or advantage.”
The trustee is demanding at least $500,000 in damages and is asking for an order restraining the defendants from using the Gordos trademark.
Tulis is represented by attorneys David A. Blansky and Salvatore LaMonica of Wantagh.
Gordos Restaurant Corp. is represented by Anne J. Penachio of Penachio Malara LLP of White Plains.