Lynora’s Osteria in downtown West Palm Beach, the cozy Italian eatery born of two successful restaurateurs, is being plundered by partner Angelo Abbenante and his father, Raffaele, claims a lawsuit filed by the restaurant’s two other partners.
Sascha Bennemann, formerly of Pistache French Bistro, and partner David Khoury, say the Abbenantes — who deny the allegations — have used the restaurant’s bank accounts for their own personal expenses, including real estate taxes, home construction, day trading and even a gym membership.
The allegations were leveled in a lawsuit filed earlier this month in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. The derivative complaint was filed on behalf of the restaurant’s parent, 225 East Ocean Avenue Inc., and seeks to remove the Abbenante family from control of Lynora’s bank accounts and cash.
For many years, the Abbenante family owned the popular Lynora’s Italian Restaurant in Lake Worth, started by Angelo’s parents, Raffaele and Maria in the 1970s.
Angelo, their son, joined forces with West Palm Beach restaurant veteran Bennemann to open Lynora’s in 2014, at 207 Clematis Street.
The eatery has been hailed as a successful blend of authentic old-school Italian cooking, with a modern twist.
But proper oversight of the restaurant’s finances has not been successful, Bennemann and Khoury alleged in the complaint, which names both Angelo and Raffaele Abbenante, who is listed as a 50 percent owner of the corporation.
Both Abbenante men have access to the company’s bank accounts, the lawsuit said. Cash withdrawals on the corporate credit card, in the amount of $50 or so, are common practices, the lawsuit claims.
And Lynora’s bank accounts have been used for Angelo’s personal expenses, including trips to Dunkin Donuts, gym memberships, bar tabs and personal purchases at Rooms-to-Go and Publix, the lawsuit says.
Bennemann claims Angelo also used corporate money for home construction jobs in the San Messina development in Lake Worth and a home in West Palm Beach, the lawsuit says.
Among the charges listed as inappropriate in the complaint: $44,000 to Raffaele and Maria; and some $70,500 in cash and distributions to Angelo and a separate business he owns.
On Monday, Angelo Abbenante denied the allegations and said the lawsuit was settled last Friday. But both Dave Roy, attorney for Bennemann, and Gary Betensky, attorney for Khoury, said that’s not true.
The case “is an ongoing lawsuit that has not been resolved,” Roy said.
Meanwhile, the kitchen has been “hijacked” by Raffaele and Maria and servers and managers fear for their jobs and personal safety, the lawsuit says.
Bennemann and Khoury said the restaurant’s 2014 taxes are “impossible to prepare,” even though the deadline is only two months away, the lawsuit says. Some payroll taxes also haven’t been paid, which could result in problems with the Internal Revenue Service, the lawsuit said.