Don Bowie, the chef behind Midtown hotspot Taste Bar and Kitchen, has a new restaurant in the works for the Washington Corridor.
Permit applications filed with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission indicate the Bowie plans to open a new spot called Rare at 4105 Washington Avenue, in the space that’s housed a number of Houston restaurants previously, including club Therapy, its most recent tenant. Details on the new restaurant are scant, but there is one glaring omission from Bowie’s TABC application: his Taste Bar and Kitchen business partner Kevin Kelley.
That could be because Kelley and Bowie are both embroiled in a seriously messy lawsuit in which Kelley accuses Bowie of misappropriation of funds and outright theft. In June 2020, Kelley filed a lawsuit against Bowie alleging that the chef and members of his family used the restaurant as “their personal piggy bank” since it opened in 2019.
The suit alleges that when Kelley and Bowie teamed up to open Taste, the plan was for Kelley to run the business side of the restaurant and Bowie would handle the “day-to-day and chef operational duties.” As a result of that arrangement, Kelley claims that his initial $220,000 investment in the restaurant was to be repaid before Bowie took any profits from the restaurant, though Bowie was paid a $10,000 monthly salary to manage the restaurant.
According to the suit, Kelley claims that Bowie “looted” Taste Bar and Kitchen of more than $800,000 in cash and company property by improperly making cash withdrawals from the restaurant’s bank accounts, stealing cash tips, and taking food and alcohol out of the restaurant for use in other business ventures.
Kelley also claims that Bowie conspired with Taste’s valet provider, Eli Valet, to pocket valet parking payments. The suit claims that Bowie’s contract with Kelley explicitly prohibited the withdrawal of any funds from the business without Kelley’s consent. He further alleges that Bowie improperly put members of his family on the restaurant’s payroll, took out Payroll Protection Program loans without Kelley’s consent, and failed to pay more than $50,000 in taxes.
Bowie did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Eater on the opening of Rare, but said in an earlier interview that the lawsuit was just “two business partners going through a business dispute.” He has also officially responded to the lawsuit in court. On June 30, Bowie’s attorney filed a general denial of “each and every material allegation” in Kelley’s suit.
When the lawsuit was filed, a Harris County judge issued a temporary restraining order that prohibited Bowie from handling or taking any funds associated with the restaurant or taking out any additional loans in the restaurant’s name. The order also bars Bowie from taking Taste’s recipes to a new concept, including the famed chicken and waffles. On July 13, a judge extended the temporary restraining order through July 20.
A hearing on another extension of the temporary restraining order was set for July 20, but it has since been rescheduled.