ANI Development LLC and its principal and receiver, Krista Freitag of E3 Advisors, has been court-appointed to oversee and manage personal and business assets of Champion-Cain, including her many restaurants.
In August, Gina Champion-Cain, founder of The Patio Group, was civilly charged by the United States Federal Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly operating a "multi-year, $300 million scheme that defrauded approximately 50 retail investors."
The list of Champion-Cain businesses that have been shuttered includes Himmelberg's in East Village, Surf Rider Pizza Crown Point, Love Surf retail, Andrea's Truffles, Fireside and The Patio On Goldfinch.
The Patio on Lamont, Surf Rider restaurants in La Mesa and Ocean Beach, and Saska’s in Mission Beach, have all been placed by the receiver under the operational guidance of Cohn Restaurant Group.
Over the past 39 years, David and Lesley Cohn’s family restaurants, which began with one small diner in 1981, has grown to 27 restaurants located in San Diego, Long Beach, and Maui. Cohn’s San Diego beach area venues include Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, BO-beau kitchen + bar in Ocean Beach, Coaster Saloon, Coasterra on Harbor Island, Corvette Diner in Liberty Station and Draft Republic in La Jolla.
“We were contacted by the receiver to take over four restaurants The Patio Group had been operating,” David Cohn told Beach & Bay Press, noting the receiver likely reached out to Cohn Restaurant Group because “it is one of the largest independent, family-owned and operated restaurant chains in the country, and because we do multiple restaurant concepts.”
Added Cohn: ”We understand this is a challenging situation, but we believe The Patio on Lamont, Surf Rider (OB and La Mesa) and Saska’s are great restaurants that guests will continue to enjoy into the future. We look forward to working with the teams at each location so they can continue to provide great food, ambiance, and hospitality.”
Cohn said his group’s management of the four Patio Group concerns will be temporary. “We think it’s only going to last between three and six months,” he said.
David Oates, a consultant hired by ANI, noted unforeseen circumstances has forced closure or transfer of all The Patio Group's retail and free-standing restaurants by Sept. 30.
“Since funds, which we are not at liberty to discuss, have not been turned over to the receiver, the only viable alternative was to close the restaurants and retail operations that were owned and operated by ANI Investments, with the exception of the four restaurants Cohn Restaurant Group is now operating,” Oates said.
The complaint against Champion-Cain and ANI Development alleges she raised hundreds of millions of dollars from investors to make short-term, high-interest loans to parties seeking to acquire California liquor licenses. But the SEC states that the investment opportunities were a complete sham and investor funds were actually funneled to a company controlled by Champion-Cain. The government has obtained a consented-to asset freeze against ANI Development.
Cohn said concern for The Patio Group’s restaurants’ employees factored into his decision to temporarily operate them.
“This was a way to keep their team members in place, and continue to have them earn a living giving them time to find out what they wanted to do,” Cohn said. “We didn’t want to have the rug pulled from underneath them in these four locations. It’s tragic in a lot of ways. But we knew these people depend on these paychecks for their livelihoods, and we respected that.”