The owner said locations shuttered due to mismanagement, not because of slower sales or traffic.
Taps Fish House and Brewery, a five-unit staple in Southern California's Orange County, shut down all of its locations due to financial turmoil, the owner said.
Joe Manzella, who founded the company in 1999 alongside his sister and late father, told the Orange County Register that it was "the complete and total collapse of a $30 million restaurant group that has been in business for a quarter century."
The closures impact about 200 employees, the Orange County Register said.
Aside from the legacy Taps Fish House & Brewery concept, the restaurant group also opened Taps Brewery & Barrel Room—a 19,000-square-foot brewery—Taps Brewery + Kitchen, and Taps Great American Brewery.
The issues allegedly center around Randy Teffeteller, a restaurateur who was hired in 2019 as CEO of the Manzella Restaurant Group. He initially worked as an advisor to Manzella to help with potential acquisitions and expansion financing. His 30 years in the industry include serving as CEO and managing partner of Hospitality Management Group and West Coast Ventures & Resources.
Taffeteller was fired in September 2022 after several accusations of mismanagement. Portions of Teffeteller's termination letter were posted on Taps Fish House & Brewery's Instagram. In the document, he was accused of not paying taxes, vendors, employees, and expenses, not training workers properly, not keeping an adequate operating budget, and misapplying funds from the Paycheck Protection Program and Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
In another post, the Taps account wrote, "Embezzlement... Fraud...Millions of Covid relief funds missing... Contract fraud... Conned... 3 criminal law enforcement probes ongoing. This has nothing to do with TAPS and everything to do with an extraordinary financial fraud and scheme perpetrated AGAINST the Manzella family and hundreds of honest, loyal, and dedicated staff and management. There will be hell to pay."
The restaurant also said Taps Fish House and Brewery isn't associated with Taps Brewery + Kitchen any longer.
"This was part of a partnership that has fractured and no management or oversight from my company has been involved since September 2022," the post read. "My suggestion to all of you if and when this disaster of a business reopens in [Yorba Linda] in the future is to stay very far away from it.
"The stories from employees coming out of the kitchen there would curl your hair," it continued. "They do not pay most vendors, they have not paid Southern California Edison [electric company] one day since opening in 2020, have been cut off by vendors, owe over $100,000 in back sales taxes, and are blaming their inability to operate on the landlord and broken pipes."
Manzella explained to the Orange County Register that financial mismanagement led to debt consolidation and eventual closures.
“There was no operational issue,” he said to the publication. “We didn’t suddenly forget how to serve Chilean sea bass and Irish Red.”
He hopes to reopen the restaurants sometime in the future.