Feds Investigating Alleged Wage Theft at Stephen Starr Restaurant

L: Stephen Starr (Photo by Jacqueline Larma/AP) R: The interior of Talula's Garden (Photo via Starr Restaurants)

Left: Stephen Starr (photo by Jacqueline Larma/AP). Center: The interior of Talula’s Garden (photo via Starr Restaurants). Right: Aimee Olexy (photo by HughE Dillon).

The U.S. Department of Labor is investigating a cook’s claim that he and other employees at a Stephen Starr restaurant were forced to work without pay, Philadelphia magazine has learned. The scheme allegedly cost each of them thousands of dollars in lost wages.

Robert Fitz, a line cook at Talula’s Garden from 2015 through early 2016, filed a federal complaint in August. Fitz says he told officials that line cooks at the farm-to-table restaurant on Washington Square were expected to start work between roughly 11 a.m. and noon each day, but weren’t allowed to clock in until 3 p.m. The employees spent the off-the-clock hours preparing to begin serving dinner at 5 p.m., he says. Read more »

Stephen Starr To Take Over Serafina Spot

Serafina location at 18th and Sansom will become a Stephen Starr restaurant.

Serafina location at 18th and Sansom will become a Stephen Starr restaurant.

Serafina is going to be taken over by Stephen Starr. The Italian restaurant from New York landed with significant fanfare in 2011. It was immediately the place to see and be seen but its bloom faded quickly with lackluster and comically bad reviews. Then there was the Cliff Lee incident. And since then, the restaurant has gotten by on tourists, Rittenhouse Square lifers and its location on bustling 18th Street. According to Michael Klein, Serafina will remain open through November before Starr moves in.

Starr has not settled on a concept for the 160-seat restaurant and the Bunker LLC on the liquor license doesn’t give too much away. We’re guessing it isn’t a golf or World War I themed restaurant.

Read more »

Starr CFO Bruce Koch Passes Away

bruce koch linkedin

Bruce Koch, 60, Starr CFO

Starr Restaurants Chief Financial Officer Bruce Koch died Tuesday, January 26th after suffering a stroke on Saturday. Koch was 60 years-old.

In addition to being the CFO of Stephen Starr’s restaurant organization, Koch was known for his love of music, juggling being involved in two bands with overseeing the finances of the restaurant empire.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, February 6th, at 1 p.m. at the Germantown Friends Meetinghouse, 47 West Coulter Street. Details regarding a musical tribute will be announced later.

Bruce Koch, 60, bassist and Starr CFO [Philly.com]

After the Hangover: How Old City Finally Sobered up and Crafted a Grown-up Vision for Itself

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We called it the “Land of 1,000 Snookis,” and judging by the wounded comments we got, that hurt.

In the 2010 story “What the Hell Happened to Old City?,” Philly Mag’s Richard Rys reported that the neighborhood’s late-1990s promise — fueled by an enticing mix of high-end restaurants, cool boutiques and celeb-friendly lounges, much of it housed in repurposed historic buildings and all anchored by Stephen Starr’s pioneering spots Continental and Buddakan — had curdled under a relentless every-weekend assault by drunken young clubbers. Residents who’d snapped up million-dollar condos after lapping up the hip daytime and weeknight vibe were checking out as soon as they were lucky enough to find buyers. Local business leaders felt that City Hall, content to keep the raucous behavior roped off from other areas of the city, wasn’t interested in addressing the mess.

Though neighborhood organizations had sporadic success dealing with the so-called nuisance bars and clubs in the zone bordered by Market and Chestnut streets from Front to 3rd — Cebu, a former VIP magnet that had fallen far, was a notable early closure — it’s only relatively recently that a concerted mix of planning and enforcement has truly clicked. The result: Notorious clubs such as Grey Social Lounge, Mint, 32˚ and Blurr, along with about 10 similar establishments and their fly-by-night party promoters, are finally gone, and a new scene is emerging.

Read more »

10 Biggest Business Deals of 2015

Philadelphia businesses made plenty of big moves in 2015. Everybody’s favorite coffee roaster got a new owner, two big universities announced a merger, and virtually every hospital seems interested in joining forces with one another.

Still, one of the biggest deals of the year — Comcast’s $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable — stalled after federal regulators recommended blocking it.

But there were still plenty of monster deals in 2015. Here are the top 10:

1. Jefferson Merges with Abington. And Aria. And Philly U.


For Jefferson, 2015 was a year of huge changes. After fundamentally restructuring how the organization is managed in 2014, Jefferson ended its financial partnership with Main Line Health and began pursuing new arrangements. Read more »

Gastronaut: Hey, Santa …

Illustration by James Boyle

Illustration by James Boyle

Dear Santa,

Hey, big guy. It’s me again. Over the years I’ve made a habit of coming to you every December and selflessly burning up all my Christmas wishes in an attempt to make Philadelphia a better place to eat. I’ve asked for butcher shops and whiskey and Asian street food, and you’ve come through with Kensington Quarters, Cooper River, and that giant indoor food-cart monstrosity they’re (allegedly) building over in Chinatown. Though you never did convince Questlove to open his Hybird fried chicken joint here, I do appreciate all the other chicken-fryers you’ve inspired—from Andy’s to the Fat Ham to Southgate. And while I’m still waiting to see if you’ll come through on making our local cocktail culture a little less, I don’t know … mustache-y?, I have faith you’ve got something (like maybe a GQ article claiming that tight vests and tiny hats cause impotence) up your sleeve and are just waiting for the right moment.

Read more »

Philly’s Political Elders Lament the Lack of Millennials Running for Office

Photo by Bradley Maule

Photo by Bradley Maule

Mayor Michael Nutter is in that glorious final phase of his tenure where he’s calling things exactly as he sees them. With seven weeks left in office and very little to lose, he’s taking on everyone from mega-restaurateur Stephen Starr to elections chief Anthony Clark to the School Reform Commission.

One of his most intriguing targets has been millennials. Over the last few months, he’s been shouting from the rooftops that too few young people are running for elected office in Philadelphia. “Where are younger people?” he asked at Philly Mag’s ThinkFest last week. “Are they even thinking about running for office?”

He’s even gotten mean about it: “I’m increasingly concerned that many young people are just finding other avenues. And, you know, having 9 million followers on Twitter is not your level of political engagement.” Read more »

The Continental Turns 20


Stephen Starr’s Continental celebrated it’s 20th anniversary with a party on Sunday night bringing together original servers from the week the restaurant opened, alumni servers from over the years, customers, family and friends. Guests enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres, a charcuterie spread and an amazing dessert buffet.

Photos after the jump »

Starr Catering to Have “State of the Art Office Headquarters” on North Broad

EBRM's Studebaker Building project. Photo: James Jennings

EBRM’s Studebaker Building project | Photo: James Jennings

The recent sale of Stephen Starr’s catering arm won’t alter the redevelopment plans at the Studebaker Building at 667 North Broad Street, Eric Blumenfeld, president of EB Realty Management Corp., said in a statement late last week.

Starr, who flipped his $40-million-per-year Starr Restaurants Catering Group to global food service firm TrustHouse Services Group for an undisclosed fee last week, has his Starr Events headquartered at the colorful building on North Broad. Blumenfeld said he initially “invested approximately $2 million in the build out of their facility, which includes a magnificent tasting room and a top-of-the-line catering kitchen.”

We told you back in January that EB Realty Management Corp. plans to take the multi-color facade off and restore the original “brick skin” from its former life as a Studebaker automobile showroom that is still intact underneath it. So while the plan hasn’t changed, it has been tweaked. According to Blumenfeld, the upper floors of the Studebaker Building will be expanded into “a new state of the art office headquarters” that will serve as the “home-base” for the entire catering operation.

Read more »

Stephen Starr Sells Catering Arm

starr events philadelphia museum of art steve legato 400

Starr Catering at the Philadelphia Museum of Art | Photo by Steve Legato

Stephen Starr has sold his Starr Events catering division – a $40 million business – to TrustHouse Services.

The deal gives TrustHouse, a top-six contract food service company in the United States, a firm foothold in Philadelphia, New York and Miami.

Starr Restaurant Catering Group will continue operating under the Starr Catering banner and will be continue to be led by Simon Powles, who was a co-founder in Starr’s catering arm back in 2007.

Starr Catering is the exclusive catering partner of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, New York’s Carnegie Hall and a host of other venues in New York, Philadelphia and Miami.

For more on the business end of the deal, check out our sister site, BizPhilly.

Stephen Starr Sells Catering Group [Biz Philly]

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