When Mission Cantina closed its doors on the Lower East Side late last year, the neighborhood had one less buzzworthy Mexican restaurant, the landlord one less problem tenant, and investor Scott Kasen had a heck of a lot less money.
The restaurant, which was owned by Mission Chinese’s Daniel Bowien, had lukewarm Yelp reviews and was even called “curiously unsatisfying” by The New York Times, but remained highly Instagrammable during its three-year run.
Even though Mission Cantina was a local fixture (not to mention a B+B favorite), Bowien apparently wasn’t able to make rent by selling chicken liver tacos; he was taken to Housing Court and, in April, agreed to pay a $80,000 settlement to his landlord.
Kasen, a private investor and former vice president of The Trump Organization, invested in the restaurant when it was formed in 2013, and was named on its liquor license as one of its principals. According to a suit filed on May 8, Kasen said he owns 33 percent of the company and provided Mission Cantina with $330,000 of its starting funds, which totaled $390,000. Since Kasen was invested in the restaurant, he had to pay the $80,000 for Bowien and Mission Cantina was forced to surrender their space and their possessions and equipment inside.
But Bowien’s problems didn’t end there. The suit alleges that on top of losing his restaurant and forfeiting the space and his property, he violated his contract with Kasen, which now included a promise to pay Kasen nearly $426,000 by June 30. It also included a clause that would make Bowien have to pay the $426,000 immediately if he lost his collateral, which was the property itself.
According to the suit, Kasen and Bowien’s contract also stated that Bowien gave up his right to a trial by jury, so the outcome will be decided by the court. If Bowien doesn’t respond to the suit within 30 days of receiving notice, he will be automatically held responsible for the $426,000.
We reached out to Bowien and Kasen’s attorney, but neither have responded. In September of 2015, Bowien told Grub Street that he was “just running a business incorrectly” by experimenting too much at Mission Cantina (he eventually turned it into a burrito joint), and complained that “the metrics of running restaurants in New York, especially, are insane.” Earlier this month, it was announced that he’ll star on the next season of The Mind of a Chef.