National Provisions, hailed in the New York Times Travel Section in 2015, has closed and employees have filed complaints about unpaid wages and bounced paychecks.
Amber Ruyter, who works as a bartender and server at National Provisions, said she and at least one other employee filed cold check complaints with the Fayette County Attorney’s Office after paychecks issued on Sept. 9 bounced.
After finding out on Sept. 16 that her paycheck had bounced, Ruyter said she texted the owners “and they promised to pay me back and said the funds would be there on Monday (September 19).”
But they weren’t. After she and other employees weren’t paid the next week as well, they filed complaints with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Ruyter said.
A message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Tuesday said the restaurant is now only open for private events. The phone number to the restaurant has been disconnected.
Krim Boughalem, who owns the business with his wife, Andrea Sims, said Tuesday that the business is for sale. The building at 264 Walton Avenue is owned by Walker Properties.
“We are in the process of changing the whole restaurant,” said Boughalem, who is French, “making it for private parties and events.”
Boughalem said that only two employees’ checks bounced for insufficient funds. The restaurant has been cash-strapped after an employee stole checks and forged them, he said.
On July 27, National Provisions reported to Lexington police that a former employee was suspected of stealing and forging checks. According to a police report, at least eight forged checks were cashed for $4,865.70 and two others were attempted. Hunter L. Damron was charged with 10 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and will be arraigned Thursday in Fayette District Court.
Boughalem confirmed that National Provisions employees were not paid last week. He blamed his payroll company, “because Friday they sent me the wrong checks. On Monday the right checks come in … but nobody showed up for work last weekend so we had to close.”
Employees who bring him their bounced checks would be paid in cash, he said.
The business is operating on a cash-on-delivery basis, he added.
“If I don’t pay them, they leave with their stuff,” he said.
While the restaurant was once a darling of local and visiting foodies, National Provisions had struggled recently. On June 10, it failed a restaurant inspection with a score of 60 out of 100; after a followup inspection, the restaurant passed with a score of 88 and was allowed to stay open.
Earlier this month, National Provisions announced a “new menu” including “a charcuterie plate with house pickles” and other items, and promised more changes were coming.
But recent reviews on Yelp were not favorable: “It ended up being the worst charcuterie I’ve ever had. One of the meats ... actually smelled and tasted rotten,” one reviewer said on Sept. 17.
Boughalem and Sims opened the 16,000-square-foot National Provisions in late 2013 in a former soft-drink bottling plant at the corner of National and Walton, starting with a bakery and adding a brasserie-style restaurant, beer hall, wine shop and market. But a Herald-Leader reviewer found the restaurant unimpressive and overpriced.
The couple also opened and then later sold Wine + Market on Jefferson Street and Table 310 on Short Street. Both of those restaurants are still open under new owners.