In lawsuit, Jean-Georges says Yitzchak Tessler owes him $400K

Famed chef alleges developer agreed to pay him to vacate Tribeca restaurant space

From left: Yitzchak Tessler and Jean Georges Vongerichten
From left: Yitzchak Tessler and Jean Georges Vongerichten

Developer Yitzchak Tessler is facing a lawsuit from renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s company for allegedly reneging on a deal to compensate the famed chef once he gave up the space he was leasing at 66 Leonard Street, known as the Textile Building.

In an October 2 lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court, the firm alleged that Tessler offered to pay $400,000 to Vongerichten’s company, Jean-Georges, if it agreed to terminate the lease at the 23,800-square-foot site, where the chef operated a Japanese restaurant called Matsugen.

The restaurant opened in 2008, however the eatery announced in March 2011 that it would close. The chef has leased the space since the year 2000, previously operating a Chinese restaurant called 66.

Tessler, the suit alleged, had contacted Jean-Georges saying he had a buyer lined up for the space and needed to have the commercial space terminated and to relieve Jean-Georges of liability. Jean-Georges had rented the space since 2000 at a rate of $30,000 a month, agreed via email and orally to the terms of the deal, according to court filings.

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As previously reported by Crain’s, the commercial space was listed in July 2011 for $9 million. The site included an 8,000-square-foot ground floor space, which was the main floor of the restaurant, and two similarly sized floors underneath.

The site was sold to Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. on February 8, according to the lawsuit. A March 23 deed indicates the site was sold for $6.2 million, according to records. Commercial brokerage Eastern Consolidated confirmed the sale through a spokesperson.

Jean-Georges alleges that it was then told by Tessler’s firm that the new buyers would pay the $400,000, however when they contacted the new buyers, they said they never agreed to pay the money and that they were told that Jean-Georges planned to remain as a tenant at the space and open a new restaurant.

Lawyers for Jean-Georges did not return calls. Tessler was not immediately available for comment.