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The Rise and Fall of Crown Group Is a Cautionary Tale to Would-Be Empire Builders

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It's like a Martin Scorsese movie where the co-star is truffled mac and cheese.

[Sean Largotta and John Delucie, in happier times.]
[Sean Largotta and John Delucie, in happier times.]

John DeLucie opened five restaurants in four years, but now he only has two left — The Lion and Bill's Food & Drink — and one of them is on the brink of eviction. So how did things swell and bust so quickly? "We were probably lacking a little bit in infrastructure," DeLucie tells the Post. Following the initial success of The Lion, DeLucie and his partner Sean Largotta expanded to the Upper East Side with Crown (now closed), to the West Village with The Windsor (now closed), and to Midtown with Bill's (still open; but facing eviction). DeLucie also took over King Cole Bar in the St. Regis, but the hotel and the chef parted ways earlier this year. Crown Group also recently paid $570,000 to employees at The Lionwho filed a class-action tip-related lawsuit.

One unnamed source tells the Post that Largotta is "essentially the Bernie Madoff of the restaurant industry." An investigation ordered by Largotta's former partners revealed that he used company funds to pay for a Land Rover and some legal fees related to his divorce. Largotta is in litigation with his former partners, while they attempt to to save Bill's from eviction. Right now, John DeLucie is also planning a new restaurant without his Crown Group cronies in the Renwick Hotel called Bedford & Co. DeLucie remarks: "I’m putting together a really fantastic team of hospitality professionals . . . people who are really looking out for me....This last year has taught me…I trust too much."

The Lion

62 West Ninth Street, New York, NY 10011 (212) 353-8400 Visit Website