Millionaire Sues Highland Park Restaurant He Planned to Buy

Marcus Lemonis agreed to buy In the Raw, the downtown Highland Park vegan restaurant, last December. After he says he spent over $100,000 paying its past-due bills, the owners told him he didn't own anything. Now, he's suing them.

Updated 2/4/2013: For the past six years, Marcus Lemonis' relationship with small businesses has been fairly simple. He spots one he likes and, just when it seems to be on the verge of shuttering, he buys it.

Now, he finds himself in a less typical, more frustrating situation with one Highland Park business: a lawsuit.

Lemonis, the Lake Forest millionaire who has breathed new life into about 50 businesses in the past six years, is suing In the Raw, a vegan restaurant in downtown Highland Park. He says that after he invested more than $100,000 in the restaurant, its owners reneged on their deal.

Lemonis shared with Patch legal documents as well as email correspondence between himself and the restaurant's owners and their lawyer about the failed partnership. In the Raw's owners and their lawyer declined to comment for this story.

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In mid-December, In the Raw owners Beth and Mark Taussig approached Lemonis, who had been eating at the restaurant for months, according to the court papers Lemonis filed. The Taussigs were behind on their bills, including federal payroll bills and Highland Park and Illinois taxes. Lemonis agreed to take care of the restaurant's financial obligations in exchange for roughly 85 percent ownership of the restaurant. That percentage jumped to 100 once Lemonis realized just how much In the Raw owed.

"She [Beth Taussig] agreed," Lemonis said, and showed Patch an email that outlines this agreement, "and I began writing checks."

Lemonis invested over $100,000

Beth Taussig declined to comment for this story, and directed Patch to her attorney, who did not return repeated phone calls. Highland Park Deputy City Manager Ghida Neukirch said that, as of the end of the year, In the Raw had not paid its food and beverage taxes for July, August and September. The total amount due to the city in taxes, interest and penalties was $4,378.51, according to Neukirch. 

In January, the restaurant paid the full amount for these invoices due to the City, Neukirch said in an email to Patch.

Between the end of December and the first week of January, Lemonis said he invested over $100,000 towards rent, vendors and other bills. He also began brainstorming a slightly tweaked angle for the restaurant, which would serve cooked food and meat in addition to raw, vegan food. The new restaurant, which would be renamed Pure and Simple, would also include space from the available storefront next door to be used for a wine bar.

"I felt like the strike zone was too narrow," Lemonis told Patch in early January when the deal still looked to be going through. "The menu is expanding and the restaurant expanding to attract more general population."

Then, on Jan. 9, Lemonis received an email from Taussig, which he shared with Patch, telling him he owned no part of In the Raw and should not step on the restaurant's property or the police would be called.

"When people are desperate, they do desperate things, and they're not going to get away with it."

"You have no membership or management interest in the In The Raw, LLC and have no possessory interest in the business’s real property," Taussig's email read. 

The note instructed Lemonis to direct all further communication through Taussig's attorney.

"After them allowing me to pay all these bills, we then get this note. … 'Thanks for your money but we don't need it anymore because we're current,'" Lemonis said, interpreting how he read that email. "It's literally that simple."

Lemonis and Taussig never signed any legal contracts, according to Lemonis, who sent Patch emails indicating the two had agreed to the terms before Lemonis began writing checks.

"There's too much paper trail that basically says here's what the deal is," Lemonis said. "When people are desperate, they do desperate things, and they're not going to get away with it."

'We're baffled by the whole thing.'

Since receiving the note, Lemonis has filed a suit that seeks to stop the Taussigs "from interfering with [Lemonis'] right to operate and control the business, from wasting and/or diverting corporate assets, from engaging in conduct designed to harm the business and its goodwill and reputation ... and from unlawfully interfering with [Lemonis' finances]."

The suit has been transferred from Cook to Lake County. Before that happened, a Cook County judge ordered the Taussigs to turn over all of In the Raw's electronic documents and sales data. Lemonis says they have yet to do either.

"We're baffled by the whole thing," Lemonis said, "especially when the judge tells you to do something and you just don't do it."

At this point, Lemonis says he has spent about $150,000 on In the Raw: $119,000 on the restaurant and its bills, and another $30,000 on legal fees. He says that the experience has taught him an important lesson.

"I didn't do background checks," he said. "That's the mistake I made."

Lemonis to open a bakery in Highland Park

Lemonis is not letting the suit get in the way of his entrepreneurship. He recently announced he would be opening a second location of the gluten-free Evanston bakery he saved last December. He expects this new spot, which will be somewhere in Highland Park, to open in February.

In the meantime, In the Raw is still open, albeit with reduced hours. The restaurant recently cut its staff down since it's no longer serving dinner.

Lemonis hired those employees for his new bakery.

"Karma is a really funny thing," Lemonis said. "At the end of the day, we'll see what happens."

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Editor's note: This article originally indicated that In the Raw owed money to the City of Highland Park at the time of publication. In the Raw was delinquent on its payments as of Dec. 31, but was in compliance in January, before this article was published. We regret the error.

Socratic Method January 26, 2013 at 02:41 PM
The whole thing stinks and is a disgrace to our town. I think both parties just need to go away. That retail space is one of the best, most desirable locations for a retail shop. The fact that no one can make it there is testament to the fact that the city of HP and the individual Lessors need to reassess their entire business plan, including their rents, taxes etc. Downtown HP is dying a slow painful death and losers like the Taussigs (simply google them) and arrogance like the millionaire, unless he is Thurston Howell III have no place in HP.
AK January 26, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Socratic Method covered it all pretty much. But since I am not that sharp in this journalism by retards, I tried to figure (for myself) how In the Raw was really doing. Per article 3 months unpaid retail tax was $4326 (which includes 2% per month interest and may include 5% penalty per city rules). So I came up with something like $3750 before interest and penalty for 3 months period, which is equal 1% of sales - the figure that brings the monthly sales to roughly $125,000. And something I don't understand is how they could go under with such high sales. So, the whole story, including the article stink very badly. And by the way, the restaurant is closed and not working on reduced hours. What a huge pile of crap anyway.
Bob Levi January 26, 2013 at 03:31 PM
From the story, it sounds like someone is getting a "raw" deal. One more thing I've never understood: Why do some landlords prefer having an empty space (sometimes for years) and not get any revenues rather than lowering their rents. It must be a tax loss write-off situation.
L January 26, 2013 at 03:38 PM
AK, "journalism by retards?" who talks like this? do you realize how offensive and ignorant a statement that is?
AK January 26, 2013 at 03:46 PM
L. Read the previous article and comments. This article clearly got born from the comments of the previous one. As for me... I think, I know why In the Raw owner doing what she is doing, but i will keep it to myself.
Beth L. January 26, 2013 at 06:20 PM
AK, really you know where the money is? Ask them how they paid their own bills for 6 months instead of restaurant or employees.
Tprice January 26, 2013 at 07:16 PM
This comes at no surprise Mark Taussig has had many business deals that end with him being the reason things have turned sour. It's nice work by The Patch to cover this story and spread the word on what appears to be a clear cut fraud.
Beth L. January 26, 2013 at 11:40 PM
We could not agree more!
Beth L. January 26, 2013 at 11:41 PM
Thank you Patch!
Kathryn January 27, 2013 at 04:27 AM
Wow. Everyone who commented on this - couldn't be more wrong if you tried. First, the store is open - with reduced hours - but still open. With very busy lunches I might add. So, AK, get your facts straight before commenting. Secondly, Beth L is none other than Marcus's girlfriend - so again, biased comments. Thirdly, who cares if they are behind on taxes? That is their problem - not anyone elses. The food is amazing, the staff is more than welcoming, and the Taussigs have their share of personal problems just as any other person does. This is the North Shore - find me one family who doesn't have some sort of problem. The restaurant is amazing and a Rose's will never make it here. The food sucks - I bought $100 worth of it for a party and everyone practically spit it out. So, good luck to this "millionaire". In the Raw is doing better than ever - perhaps a result of Lemonis's banishment from the store. It has a huge support group and will for sure be here for years to come.
Ben January 27, 2013 at 04:34 AM
Kathryn - I completely agree. I have been a supporter of In the Raw since day 1. Yes, it has had its problems - but it is amazing. The community, the atmosphere, everything. Tprice - Beth is the sole owner of In the Raw, so whatever problems you may have with Mark, he doesn't even own it so what does it matter? Everyone who knows the true facts to this story - not the crap written by Mr. Nelson knows the real story. Beth did not give her side of the story in efforts to take the high road - something Mr. Lemonis clearly does not understand. He is an adult who acts like a child. Something I witnessed personally upon entering the store one day when he threw a fit because I entered during a "meeting". I am glad to see his involvement in In the Raw come to a halt as are many people. I can assure everyone, the community behind In the Raw will never step foot into his new restaurant for two reasons. One, the crap quality of Rose's food. And two, for his ignorant and disgustingly childish personality.
Jeff Wheeler January 27, 2013 at 04:52 AM
Interesting Guy for sure! -- from Patch in June 2011: Mark W. Taussig, 43, of the 800 block of Fairview Road in Highland Park, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, unlawful possession of cannabis, unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and cell phone restrictions (local) after being stopped by the police at Forest Avenue and Sheridan Road, Highland Park. He was released on bond with a court date of July 1.
AK January 27, 2013 at 05:07 AM
Opened restaurant = prepaid "cleaning program" they are working during the day with the local book writer. Something like you pay them few hundred bucks (which Mr. Lemonis apparently can't get) to eat veggies/drink juice in their place and consume no meat at the same time. Lose weight and several hundred bucks, clean your liver, kidney and brain. Prearranged. My take: no future for this place and/or Rose. Few more local scandals ahead for sure, but it will all end soon. Too much stupid money is still trying to capture such miniature market share. Patch is great? Well, these articles had been obviously ordered by the Lake Forest Millionaire.
Patti K January 27, 2013 at 06:53 AM
What the hell is with people digging in to these people's personal lives? So he screwed up one day - we all have. Jeez - no slack in these communities. But yes - going off the fact that "Beth L." is Lemonis's girlfriend (per Kathryn and my own research) - it is safe to say all this bull is paid for by yours truly, Marcus Lemonis. Anyone with that much money can make up whatever crap he wants and pay the author to write whatever crap he spits out.
Fairness January 27, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Want to talk about personal issues? Lemonis only dates much older women, maybe to deal with being abandoned as a baby he is looking for a mommy...he also has eating disorder issues...
Josh January 27, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Why are the Tausigs in foreclosure in both their properties? Why have they bounced payroll checks? Why is Lemonis wasting his time with these criminals? Yes criminals , patch reported in 2011 that Tausig was arrested for drugs!
Josh January 27, 2013 at 04:32 PM
Beth did not give her side of the story? Lets try and reach the employees who were screwed out of money?
AK January 27, 2013 at 05:37 PM
From the biz perspective 1)vegan = animal free and 2)gluten free = wheat/rye/barley free. So both In the Raw owner and LF Million man got themselves into vegan and gluten free hype as a way to make money. And that money should come from the toughest customers to deal with. Any restaurant that offers wider spectrum menu can beat them. As a wholesaler, Rose's accounts look pretty weak and many that are listed don't really exist anymore. Remember, gluten free is wheat and barley and rye free (not starch free). Obviously ZUZU and SOCRATIC hit the nail.
Lilly January 27, 2013 at 09:52 PM
Fairness - Not only does he date much older women, but his step-daughter from a previous marriage is only a year younger than he is. Gross. So if we are talking about personal problems, there's a big one. All the employees were paid in full - that is a total fact. You can ask any of them. At the beginning, paydays were just not as often. But they have all been rightfully paid in full. And Beth did not give her side of the story because she is a grown adult who understands that bashing someone will not get her anywhere. Lemonis on the other hand, is clearly still a child - chasing after women who could be his mother and fathering children only a year younger than he is. He came to Nelson with the story to make himself seem like a hero when all he truly does is go after women in desperation and take companies out from under them - he did this to women in California who owned businesses as well. He is a dirty business man who has a lot of personal problems and is a pathetic excuse for a man.
Rich M January 28, 2013 at 12:58 AM
Wow, I wonder who's side you are on. I love how you completely skirt the issue at hand - that this guy paid $100k to help them out and they said, thanks, now leave us alone! Then you jump on his other venture - Rose's, as if you are going to make us not go there. Third, the food sucks at In The Raw, and it's overpriced crap too. I also could care less about Rose's - I'm not a fan of these super healthy places anyway. In my opinion, In The Raw with it's holier than thou, hipsters should close immediately. We need a good beef joint in that space ASAP!
Kim January 28, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Mark Tausig we know your writing some of these! Lily? Really Mark?? Must be high again or drunk like you were when arrested.
MS January 29, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Steve S. January 29, 2013 at 01:58 PM
The restaurant is NOT closed yet. They are open for breakfast and lunch. I would say this won't last too long.
Andrew Gurvey January 29, 2013 at 02:02 PM
I am not sure you can really call this a journalism piece. The article appears to be subterfuge for furthering Mr. Lemonis' agenda. The numbers being thrown around in this article are speculative, based upon Mr. Lemonis telling the author of this article what those numbers are. I am gleaning this information from the amount of times the author has wriiten some configuration of "Mr. Lemonis says...". There are only two groups of people that know the truth of what actually happened, or is happening: The Taussigs and Mr. Lemonis. In the interest of full disclosure, I love In the Raw. Their menu and offerings suit my lifestyle, so I definitely feel partiality towards the restaurant. Additionally, the Taussigs have been very good to me since I have been going in there. Having said all of that, I wouldn't have a problem reading an article that involved more substantiated fact and less speculation only coming from the side of the millionaire. What is the point of writing an article like this when you barely have any facts? All this is doing is hurting a small business owner who you may or may not like. Here's the thing: if you don't like the Taussigs or the business they are running, then don't patronize their establishment.
Steve S. January 29, 2013 at 02:02 PM
An arrest does not mean a conviction, innocent until proven guilty
Andrew Gurvey January 29, 2013 at 02:03 PM
Writing space was limited, but to conclude my thoughts above: It is appalling to me the number of inflammatory comments people have been making both about the Taussigs and Mr. Lemonis. Resorting to cyber-bullying tactics wherein you are making fun of the way someone dresses, or trying to characterize someone as a criminal based on someone screwing up is reprehensible.
AK January 29, 2013 at 03:22 PM
Steve. It is my understanding they are running "detox" subscription program for those who want to lose some dough and get some experience. If something is not moving for $25 they will try to sell it for $75 via motivational speakers. How long it may last in such mode I don't know, but, I guess, as long as suckers keep flocking in owners will get some more time here. This is my personal opinion, of course. For your kid problem you should look at buckwheat, everyone should regardless. On the funny side the message exchange turned into "vegan cougars vs. gluten free cougars" war.
Jack Straw January 29, 2013 at 04:21 PM
My wife is on the back side of cancer treatments and has been going to Raw for 3 months. Her energy is returning she feels much better all over and her mental outlook on life has improved. So from this guy’s opinion thanks Raw and I hope they stay in business no matter who owns it.
Alison January 31, 2013 at 04:56 PM
I really like the juices and continue to support in the raw but I think they are over priced. I have never eaten dinner there since i do not like the cold raw dinners. I think the menu needs to include a little more than just raw food similar to Karyns Cooked. They have an Incredible vegan menu for lunch and dinner
forest barbieri September 04, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Kind of fun to just observe this banter! We were told by the LFM, Lake Forest Millionaire, that without question Rose's would open in Feb. Obviously did not happen and from my take that saved him some money as whatever he puts into this place is money that will soon disappear with an extreme low likelihood of success. I do however, like the Red "Usher" shoes. Hey didn't he just miss a court date?


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