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Food Beverage & Hospitality

Our focus is the business of food.

Our Food, Beverage & Hospitality Group provides clients with broad, experienced, and practical counsel, in collaboration with our Corporate, Labor & Employment, Real Estate, Intellectual Property, Tax, and other practice groups. Whether you’re an established group with multiple concepts and locations, a hotel or sports venue, an entrepreneur with a project in need of capital, a private equity, venture capital or strategic investor looking for opportunities, our Food, Beverage & Hospitality Group can help.  We provide clients with broad, experienced, and practical counsel, whether the challenges are purely domestic or involve worldwide expansion.   

In our work for operators, hotels, chefs, and all varieties of venues, our attorneys have guided clients smoothly through many aspects of their operations, including: 

  • Investment and capital-raising 
  • Business development 
  • International and domestic expansion and licensing restaurant openings and closings 
  • Leasing and “management” arrangements 
  • Joint ventures 
  • Debt financing and reorganization 
  • Management and control 
  • Exploitation of intellectual property 

We also provide experienced counsel in the areas of literary and television rights transactions, sponsorships, merchandizing, licensing, branding, trade secret protection, intellectual property portfolio management, exercise of privacy and publicity rights, advertising and endorsement issues, and news and entertainment content.

We apply our extensive experience representing institutional and private capital sources to the active investment market in the hospitality industry. As private equity firms increase their activity, and as institutional opportunities for expansion and liquidity expand, our clients benefit from our market savvy and deep understanding of the changing financial market. Capitalizing on these changes may

entail complex transactions affording minority investors opportunities to realize on their investments while allowing the founders to maintain significant “upside” interests and at the same time take meaningful liquidity . These transactions involve considering the implications of organizational documents, compliance with applicable securities laws, and structuring and documenting all the terms upon which the new investment is being made. 

We bring our considerable experience to the negotiation of restaurant and retail leases (including dealing with complex construction and permitting issues), as well as purchase agreements, ground leases, joint ventures, licensing agreements, and the purchase of properties out of bankruptcy. We provide counsel in contracting, employment and human resources, technology licensing, and arbitration and mediation — all of which are key to the hospitality arena.

We also advise our hospitality clients in a broad array of matters involved with labor and employment, including the following:

  • Litigating individual and class action employment actions under all federal, state and local employment laws
  • Negotiating agreements affecting key employees, including executive employment agreements, non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, and separation agreements
  • Advising on compliance with myriad employment laws, such as Title VII, FMLA, ADA, ADEA, WARN, FLSA, FFCRA and NLRA, as well as state and local equivalents
  • Auditing compliance with industry-specific wage and hour requirements with respect to wages, tips/gratuities, overtime, exemption classifications, commissions, bonuses, and other compensation arrangements
  • Advising on issues involving due diligence and employment liability for employers in transition, including acquisitions, sales, and bankruptcies
  • Working with and defending against various federal and state agencies, including the U.S. and New York Departments of Labor, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, New York State Division of Human Rights, New York City Commission on Human Rights, National Labor Relations Board and Occupational Safety and Health Administration
  • Preparing employee handbooks and other workplace policies and compliance forms
  • Training employers on discrimination and harassment avoidance as well as progressive discipline, unconscious bias and investigation skills and techniques

Representative clients include: National Restaurant Association, Watch Enterprises (Rachael Ray), Adam Perry Lang, Bold Food Restaurant Group (Bobby Flay), Crafted Hospitality and ‘wichcraft (Tom Colicchio), Red Cat, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Liberty Coca-Cola Beverages LLC, Meatball Shop, Paige Hospitality Group, Peter Luger Steakhouse, The Fireman Group, Coach Farm Enterprises (maker of Coach Farm® cheese), Think Food Group (Jose Andres) and World Central Kitchen (Jose Andres’ non-profit food advocacy initiative).

Case Study

Non-Compete & Trade Secrets

Non-Compete Claims

As part of its strategy to enter a new geographical market, our client, one of the world’s largest insurance brokers, hired a group of employees in that market from another of the world’s largest insurance brokers.

The Situation

As part of its strategy to enter a new geographical market, our client, one of the world’s largest insurance brokers, hired a group of employees in that market from another of the world’s largest insurance brokers.  One of the new hires became the President of our client’s affiliate in that market.  Shortly thereafter, the former employer initiated an action in Michigan state court against our brokerage client and its affiliate’s President, whom we also represented.  Plaintiff alleged that the new President misappropriated confidential information and was soliciting plaintiff’s clients and employees in breach of her employment agreement’s restrictive covenants, allegedly with her new employer’s encouragement and assistance.

Months later, during the course of discovery, two of plaintiff’s corporate clients transferred their health and benefits insurance business from plaintiff to our brokerage client.  Plaintiff filed an emergency motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction.  In its motion, plaintiff sought to enjoin our clients not only from soliciting, accepting, and servicing business from plaintiff’s current or prospective clients, but also from servicing the two clients that had already moved their business.

The Solution

In the span of a little more than a week, the GEABP team drafted a 20-page opposition brief and secured three supporting affidavits, two of which were provided by the non-parties who had transferred their business from plaintiff to our brokerage client.  When plaintiff submitted an untimely and improper reply brief less than 48 hours before the hearing, we – less than 24 hours later – submitted opposition in response to that brief as well.

The Result

The preliminary injunction hearing was held remotely via Zoom.  After hearing oral argument, the judge gave his ruling from the bench, adopting all of our key arguments and denying plaintiff’s motion for injunctive relief in its entirety.  The case settled shortly thereafter.