Battle Royale at the Piazza: Bart Blatstein Locks Shola Olunloyo Out Of Speck
We’ve been telling you for what seems like years about Speck, Shola Olunloyo’s long-delayed eatery that was to bring sophisticated eating to Bart Blatstein’s Piazza, more known for P.Y.T.’s beloved burgers, booze-spiked milkshakes, and inflatable pools stocked with girls in bikinis than the level of culinary prowess that the Studiokitchen genius would bring to the table. But now, it seems that the Blatstein-Olunloyo partnership is no more, with the landlord locking the chef out of the restaurant, which was – in theory – finally set to open. According to a trusted source, the lockout occurred last week. The source – who personally knows both men well enough to know firsthand that Olunloyo is bristly (and that’s putting it nicely) and that Blatstein does not put up with any B.S. – isn’t privy to the exact nature of the dispute, but observes: “Their relationship has gone south now that they have this beautiful $1 million restaurant that Shola has been locked out of… which kinda sucks.”
Neither Blatstein nor Olunloyo could immediately be reached for comment.
Since posting this earlier this afternoon, the lines are being drawn pretty clearly in the sand. I heard from someone in Olunloyo’s camp, who said that Blatstein wanted the chef to sign an agreement entitling the developer to a part of any books, restaurants, or other future projects that he might pursue. That person added that Olunloyo said last Friday that the project is officially over, and that he paid employees out of his own pocket for lost wages. Oh, and they also mentioned, “Bart Blatstein is an asshole. He held the restaurant completely hostage.”
Nobody at Blatstein HQ wants to speak for attribution. But one person close to the deal – or, rather, non-deal – confirms that there was an agreement similar to this that Olunloyo refused to sign. Their explanation: “If Shola decided he wanted to move to California two months from now, what recourse would there be? Shola has no assets.” That source promised that Speck would open with another chef (maybe Jose Garces?!), and pointed out that Bart has “opened ten restaurants without any drama. How many has Shola opened successfully? Zero, and that’s with drama.” Oh, and they also mentioned, “Some people get all wrapped up in Shola and drink his Kool-Aid like he’s Jim Jones. I think he’s nuts.”
See you in court, fellas.