Owner of Winnipeg's Bouchée Boucher, Ward 1 sued for alleged fraud
Butcher shop and restaurant owner owes $260K, including $101K in unpaid meat bills, lawsuit alleges
The former meat supplier to two Winnipeg restaurants says the owner of the restaurants owes thousands in unpaid bills, diverted money to himself instead of paying his staff and failed to make good on a personal loan he used to buy a house.
Harborside Farms, a pork and beef producer in Pilot Mound, Man., is suing Steven Conner — a former business partner of Harborside and the owner of the restaurants Bouchée Boucher and the now-defunct Ward 1 — for $260,000.
Conner declined to speak with CBC about the lawsuit. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The lawsuit, filed March 23, dates back to April 2016 when Conner incorporated Bouchée Boucher, a restaurant and butcher shop, and asked Harborside Farms to invest. The family farm in Pilot Mound — about 150 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg — is owned by Pam and Clint Cavers, who took a five-per-cent ownership.
Part of the deal between the couple and Conner included an agreement to supply meat to Bouchée Boucher before getting paid. Conner agreed to pay the farm the initial cost, plus interest, after he sold the meat to customers, the lawsuit says.
The restaurant and butcher shop opened on Taché Avenue in St. Boniface in October 2016.
Harborside Farms alleges that the following year, Conner stopped paying them back for their meat. In March 2017, after going more than a month without being paid, the Caverses asked to take a look at the books.
"Conner provided limited and materially incorrect accounting information to the plaintiffs," their court documents state.
The documents state the next month, Pam and Clint Cavers gave Conner a loan of $12,700 so he could buy a home. He never repaid the money, they say.
Between May and September 2017, the Harborside Farms owners say, they continued to try to improve business at Bouchée Boucher while Conner misrepresented how well the business was doing.
"He under reported supplier and other financial obligations of the company and promised that a restructure of the business was underway," the documents state.
Still hoping Bouchée Boucher would rebound, Harborside Farms continued to supply meat to the restaurant until December 2017, despite not being paid, the lawsuit says. The couple now say they are owed $101,000 for meat and other farm products alone.
In December and again in January, when Conner asked the farm to help cover payroll for staff at Bouchée Boucher and Ward 1, Harborside loaned thousands to the businesses to keep them open, according to the suit.
It says Harborside later found out from the manager at Ward 1 that employee paycheques were bouncing, despite their payment. Harborside alleges Conner used the funds for his personal expenses, including to help buy a house.
"Conner has appropriated to himself a disproportionate share of the remuneration, management fees, bonuses and other payments flowing from his ownership and management," the documents allege.
Clint Cavers resigned as co-director of Bouchée Boucher in February, the same month the documents say he and his wife found out Conner "grossly misrepresented" the amount of debt he owed.
A notice outside Bouchée Boucher states that the restaurant is taking an "early spring break" in March but plans to reopen in April with a new menu. The butcher shop, the notice says, remains open.
Ward 1, which was in Osborne Village, closed in February.
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