U.S. Government Moves to Liquidate Union Trust

Joe said to tell you that we plan to open in a few days. That’s what Joe Grasso’s assistant told me in mid-November, when I called Grasso to find out why his $12 million steakhouse Union Trust had closed. But here it is a few weeks later, and the situation has gone from bad to worse.

Union Trust has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since early 2011. Chapter 11 is designed to allow a business the chance to reorganize and get a second shot at success. But recently, the United States government made a motion to dismiss the Union Trust bankruptcy case altogether, which would remove the protections offered by Chapter 11, or to convert it to Chapter 7, which would force the business to be liquidated to pay off as much of its debts as possible.

One bankruptcy expert who has analyzed the bankruptcy filings explains that Union Trust has a negative cash flow and hasn’t been paying some of its taxes of late. A hearing on the Chapter 7 motion is scheduled for January.

Meanwhile, employees are left out in the cold. According to Union Trust general manager (I guess make that former general manager) Sarah Christiansen, dozens of workers — from dishwashers to managers, including her — are owed weeks of back pay. “Before we closed, I personally put money into buying product, and I held my paychecks just so my staff could get paid,” she claims, adding that even she’s surprised that Union Trust is still closed. “We were all planning to work that weekend. Business had been good.”

Christiansen says she was told that employees cannot be paid because the “accounts are all frozen”, although the bankruptcy expert I spoke with says that’s not necessarily true. “But these cases can be very confusing,” he cautions.

And any disgruntled employees who think that Grasso should dig into his own deep pockets to cover the payroll shouldn’t hold their breath: Grasso has filed a separate case declaring personal bankruptcy.

Grasso could not immediately be reached for comment.

  • EmployeeABC

    I personally spoke with Grasso several times over the past weeks and it seems that HIS ASS MUST BE JEALOUS OF THE SHIT THAT COMES OUT OF HIS MOUTH!

    He will run circles around a question, give false promises, and lie through his teeth.

    It’s the holidays and we all need our pay. people’s checks that can not be cashed date back too Oct 26 for some people… EVERYONE still is owed the pay check dating Nov 23, 2012.

    and the GM did the payroll and had it sent over to the accountants… wondering if they at actually getting paid! I BET THEY ARE!

  • info_finder

    if any of the staff would like to contact the accountants and home offices..

    215-701-1000

  • Christian Vanneque

    Everyone who voted for Obama should call his office and ask for payback.

  • Johnny Topper

    Additionally, employees who were enrolled in the watered-down health insurance offered by Union Trust were having payments ($90/month) deducted from their paychecks through November, even though Grasso cancelled the policy in September; just another shining example of this con-man’s shady business practices and complete lack of decency.

  • KINGS OAK #1

    ILL HIRE ALL YOU HARD WORKING PHILADELPHIANS… COME BUY KINGS OAK AND ASK FOR THE BUTCHER

  • previously@UT

    Kings oak, you guys need a bartender?

  • Alimentarian

    Kings Oak, I take it spelling skills are not required?

  • JoeGrassoStinks

    So his employees don’t get paid, but the owner (Joe Grasso) gets to keep his mansion and his collection of classic cars along with his “everyday” car- his Bentley. This whole situation is very disturbing. There were several investors that were never paid back a dime- even when there was a profit because Grasso and his accountants were hiding EVERYTHING. I hope the hard working employees get their pay. As for the investors, I think the best news for them is the news in this article. Once the Feds get into their office, the truth will come out and he might actually face criminal charges. Let’s face it- Joe Grasso is a criminal. Stay tuned, it will all unravel. Just make sure you never do business with him or any of his alias’. I am aware of at least 40-50 companies looking to get a piece of the pie once the property is liquidated. In my opinion, the employees should be first in line to get paid. There is a reason the PLCB requires all renewals by October 31st, but it is also a guarantee that employees of Grasso-like creeps get laid off just in time for the holidays. It’s really a shame. Joe Grasso is a “has been” and he is a disgrace. I wonder if he cheats his employees, how he would treat his wife. Oh, right! He cheats on her, too. What a scumbag!

  • previously@UT

    @ Kings Oak #1- I contacted your restaurant. they said no one is employeed there by the name of Butcher.

    are you Brian the manager?

  • I Know All Inside Stuff

    Sounds like what John Taxin did to his Staff at Bookbinders a few years ago.
    He’s living the High Life in Richmond, Virginia.

  • employee UT

    Joe is a piece of shit..that is obvious and he will get his but all the people he lied to including investors, employees, and vendors are the ones who lose..

  • yo pecker head

    Look at the family tree.
    The Lipsons have been protecting the Grassos
    since day 1.
    The mob has been extorting Philly Mag since the
    Jim Quinn era. when a positive review had a
    price.
    The Stupid Martini was a Philly Mag/Curson deal.

  • ssi

    Wow that GM was naive

  • sroxy

    The GM is not naive, just not sharing everything with people that do not need to know.

  • EmployeeABC

    that GM was the best GM you could ask for in a restaurant and her and the AGM held that place together.. they were the only reason the employees stayed. it sure was not the owner of the restaurant.

  • 4thFloorTruthLounge

    Seems that Mr. Fiorello could spend more time promoting and supporting restaurants, instead of bashing them and reveling in their misfortune. Everyone from the employees to Mr. Grasso believed in it, made it their home and wanted to see it succeed.

  • previously@UT

    Grasso believed in UT? thought he held onto it because if he didn’t someone would come after him about that tax money because he wasn’t open for 5 years.

  • previously@UT

    and if Grasso really cared, he would have cared more about his employees getting paid on time. or having proper tools in the restaurant like tables that work, a cappuccino machine, proper liquor n wine stocked, utensils, glassware, and how about an up to date LIQUOR LICENSE?

    so don’t bash on Fiorello for doing his job and showing the truth behind restaurants. trust me when I say, the WHOLE staff could not wait till the truth came out about how crooked Grassos businesses really are.

  • Phillybar1

    Joe is not the best business person in the world and you all fell into his huge lie of BS. Him and all his friends drove that place into the ground along with most of the investors. You would go in and see most of them with large groups eating and more importantly drinking the place dry which as you all know – the profit center of any restaurant. Then they would leave, sign the check as owner and leave a tip that most would quit over but figured they’d make good later…..later never came. He screwed most of the original money people and kicked them out without cause which I’m sure is what led to this whole issue…..one of his partners was called karma and it came back to collect on its note. As for his cars, houses and other shell companies……forget about touching them….they are probably two-three times removed from him personally. Lesson learned kids….if it looks like a duck and quacks likes a duck……don’t do business with a duck

  • Eric

    Grasso is a piker. He is a bush-league amateur who always wanted to play with the big boys but didn’t have the chops to do so. Hell, he couldn’t even effectively manage a small chain of coffee shops that he and his punk kid drove into the ground. So no surprise he turned UT into a shuttered disaster. Now it looks like it’s time for little Joey G to go get his f@#king shine box.

  • Boozfan

    One thing we can all agree on is that the place was beautiful. Hopefully someone who actually knows how to run a business will have the opportunity to take over such a beautiful dining room. That place was doomed from the start. I was one of over a thousand people invited to the opening festivities. It was anything BUT a party. I would guess about 800 showed up. Took about 30 minutes just to get to the bar. Chugged it down and got the hell outta there. Never even got a single bite of food. How do you expect success when that is your big opportunity to shine. I felt like the old lady in the Wendy’s commercial… Where’s the beef???? Someone could’ve told me it was a vegan restaurant and I would’ve believed them. Other people I knew didn’t even get a drink. It was not the first impression I would want if I were opening a 12 million dollar Steakhouse! It’s a shame, If the story is written based on facts, and the employees were stranded at this time of the year I would have to think the owner must be a douchebag.

  • previously@UT

    well we are all stranded. high and dry. I contacted the accountants today and they laughed when I asked about pay checks and how we don’t have them yet.. from Nov. 23 Nov. 9th and some even the paycheck before that one!

    double douche bag

  • Boozfan

    “Previously@UT” and all other employees- it might not be what you want to hear right now, but there are so many debts attached to this bankruptcy/liquidation litigation. It’s possible you will get your pay, but it could take years. You all need to get together and GET A LAWYER to file one more lawsuit into the file. Contact the PA dept. of Labor & Industry (be patient and kind- they don’t deal well with attitude). Then you can also contact their office and that’s when you can drop some bombs. Anyone have anything worthy of blackmail?? It’s rumor on the street that he has been involved with many “shady” dealings. Jonathan Cohen is a very reputable attorney. It’s a shame, and obviously an increasingly disturbing chain of events. Hopefully everyone learns a very important lesson here- do not touch anything attached to Joseph Grasso Jr. Not even with a 21 and a half foot pole! You will eventually find work, just make sure you interview your potential new employer as they interview you. Find a reputable operation like a small group or a chain. Or at least something that’s been open for more than 5 years. Steer clear of just opened or about to open. Good luck, and try not to let this spoil your holidays. You still have your passion. Take your talent where it will be best put to use.

  • previously@UT

    we are all finding our own ways.

    as for black mail… HAHAHAH. the list goes on and it will only be a little while before the forensic accountants go through the records and find out missing funds that correlate with expenditures in his personal life I bet.

    and there are many of us in talks with lawyers n L&I to file suit against Grasso and othe investors in the company.

    but everything is “alleged ” and just hear say

  • Boozfan

    I’m sure that they will have a lot to uncover.
    At least you always know there’s karma
    Best of luck to you all

  • http://phillyattorney.org David Wisniewski

    I was wondering why the mail kept piling up inside the door for weeks on end. Now we know the rest of the story. Shame, as the food/service/etc was really good.

    As an aside, under the PA Wage Payment law, any owner/officer of a business is personally liable for any wages due an employee.

  • previously@UT

    @ David: we wish! word on street he just filed for chapter 11 himself so that puts another wrench into the system. he owes $40,000+!

  • Jason UT RawBar

    The People working there were the best, the food was great, and only the best ingredients were used.