By Alfred Villoch, III, at Savage, Combs & Villoch, PLLC
Arigato Japanese Steakhouse, LLC, a restaurant with three locations in the Tampa Bay area, including a popular location in the Carrollwood area, has permanently closed its doors, according to Eric Snider with the Tampa Bay Business Journal. The restaurant was founded in 1971 and has been in the Tampa Bay area since 1978.
Mark Douglas with WFLA quotes Arigato’s owner, Dale Del Bello, as stating that he is “currently working very hard and doing everything in [his] power to make good by everyone we are in debt to.” See “Arigato’s owner saddened by his restaurant closures in Clearwater and St. Petersburg.” While this is an admirable quote from the owner, it is likely a hollow promise based on recent filings with the bankruptcy court in Tampa.
Already in financial trouble, Arigato filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in 2012. See In re Arigato Japanese Steakhouse, LLC, Case No. 8:12-bk-16665-MGW (Bank. M.D. Fla). Chapter 11 allows a company to file for bankruptcy but remain in business under the watchful eye of the United States Trustee, the creditors’ committee, and the bankruptcy court. In Chapter 11, a company can either reorganize its affairs and emerge as a leaner and meaner company or the business can wind down its affairs (i.e., liquidate) in an orderly fashion to maximize the value of its assets that are sold separately or sell the company as a whole through bankruptcy court supervision.
It appears that Arigato confirmed its Chapter 11 plan to reorganize on June 25, 2013 and intended to stay in business at that time, but then on December 17, 2013, the United States Trustee filed a motion to dismiss Arigato’s bankruptcy case, complaining that Arigato had failed to timely file operating reports as required by the court and failed to pay quarterly fees of $9,750 and $6,825, respectively. See Docket No. 254. The motion appears to be still pending. Also, the Florida Department of Revenue filed a motion to dismiss Arigato’s case on July 30, 2014, complaining that Arigato failed to file tax returns for 2013 and 2014. This failure resulted in taxes, penalty and interest obligations in the approximate amount of $200,372.02. See Docket No. 289.
In light of these financial troubles, it is not surprising that Arigato closed the doors to its three Tampa Bay Area restaurants and, unfortunately, it seems hard to believe that Arigato will “make good by everyone we are in debt to.” Chapter 11 allows a company to reorganize its affairs and emerge from bankruptcy a better company. But in Arigato’s case, it seems like the company just couldn’t make it work.