Food hall at 205 Hudson is tangled in lawsuit

The partnership that had plans to launch a food business incubator and food hall at 205 Hudson (at Canal — the one-time American Flatbread, RIP) seems to be a partnership no more, putting the future of that space up in the air. Bella Karakis has sued her partner, Robert Batchelder III, claiming that he forced her out of the business — called Chefscape — that they started together in 2016 in Virginia.

It’s a complicated web of LLCs and investors (including Tribeca Rooftop owner Billy Reilly) but after reading the complaint, Karakis claims she invested $200,000 and countless hours of effort only to be shut out of this latest venture, the fourth in the company’s expansion. They started working on 205 Hudson in 2018, and it was envisioned as a “10,000 square-foot shared commercial kitchen and food hall that would also include a top-of-the-line kitchen, a well-curated bar, and an open kitchen that could be used for cooking classes and other private events. The facility would target 120+ members.” Those members in turn would provide the food in the food hall to the public.

It also would have activated that dark (save for the unceasing traffic) corner.

The court document goes on to say that “Batchelder has locked Karakis out of the business; refused to provide her financial information, year-end financials, or a Form K-1 for 2018; questioned the existence of the parties’ written agreement embodying their joint venture in which they agreed that the Chefscape brand and future locations would be split between them; denied that Karakis has any ownership in Chefscape New York despite issuing capital calls and consistently accepting her capital contributions and representing to governmental authorities that Karakis is a principal; and restructured the Chefscape Virginia operation to move assets and resources from entities in which Karakis holds a 25% interest to other entities in which she is now alleged to have either a smaller or no interest at all.”

In short, it’s ugly. And anyway you slice it, it’s bad news for the neighborhood.

The two started a food truck business in Virginia in 2016, despite the fact that Karakis is an attorney and Batchelder is an investor. They then opened a larger Chefscape incubator in Leesburg (pictured above) and then a location at 180 Maiden Lane, which serves the building tenants only. According to Karakis when she applied for a liquor license in August 2018, “Chefscape is a food incubator company that provides local entrepreneurs an environment to successfully bring their restaurant concepts to market. To assist its food members, Chefscape operates a vibrant food hall with revolving concepts offering a variety of unique menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a marketplace to sell gourmet refrigerated and shelf-stable foods (ranging from sauces, to brownies, granola to meal kits) all made by its members on premise, a full roster of cooking classes for both adult and children, as well as pop-up and private dinners all of which are curated by our member chefs in our private dinner kitchen.”

Let’s hope the mess is resolved soon…