Family-run Training Table closes doors amid legal battle

Family-run Training Table closes doors amid legal battle

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SALT LAKE CITY — Amid an ongoing lawsuit between owners of The Training Table, the Utah restaurant closed its doors this week.

The business thanked its customers for "39 wonderful years" Thursday in a statement posted to Facebook.

"(Wednesday) was our final day serving cheese fries, dipping sauce and burgers," according to the statement. "Thanks to our incredible customers and staff who made us a Utah original."

The Training Table's five locations in Salt Lake City, Holladay, Sandy, Layton and Riverton are now out of business amid a dispute in court over several issues related to ownership.

Stephanie Chard, a 50 percent stock owner, sued her father and The Training Table co-founder Kent Chard in June, along with his trust, two of his longtime business advisors, and two companies that leased to the restaurants.

The civil case is ongoing. Stephanie Chard alleges in her complaint that her father falsely presented business partner Peter Ennenga, who had previously been disbarred from practicing law, as legal counsel available to her and The Training Table restaurants when she joined the business in 2011.

Stephanie Chard claims in the lawsuit that she joined as a stockholder in the business to help save it.

The lawsuit says Kent Chard and Ennenga, as well as accountant Don Sorensen, acted in bad faith because they didn't disclose they each "directly or indirectly owned an interest" in the two businesses that leased The Training Table's restaurant locations.

The complaint describes those allegedly undisclosed associations as "conflicting interests" that incentivized the lawsuit defendants to choose courses of action not in the restaurant's best interest.

The complaint also contends that at the time Stephanie Chard purchased her 50 percent stock in 2011, Kent Chard, Ennenga and Sorensen withheld from her their involvement in the companies that leased the restaurant buildings.

On the same day she purchased the stock, the lawsuit claims, the terms of the restaurant buildings' lease was amended to require higher payments.

The complaint also claims that Kent Chard, who was a 50 percent stockholder before transferring that stock to a trust in his name, "drew a salary throughout the period of time that he was only minimally involved."

"Kent Chard's salary payments, which were entirely disproportionate to any actual work he was providing, caused a serious financial strain on the company," the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also says the two companies responsible for leasing to The Training Table implemented new rates significantly above fair market value and have been attempting to sell the buildings to another buyer, spurning her offers.

Those companies have also been unresponsive to Stephanie Chard's requests for improvements to the buildings "which have been and continue to be in disrepair," the complaint says.

Kent Chard filed a document in response to the lawsuit that gave a much different account of his working relationship with his daughter. He said Stephanie Chard was never misled as to his role in the two businesses that lease the buildings to the restaurants.

"Soon after Stephanie acquired … stock, she started to exercise greater control over the operations and finances of (the restaurants). As a result, our business relationship soured," Kent Chard wrote. "She began to tell me that she did not need my involvement in the business I had created. She manipulated me into ceding operational control … by threatening to leave the company if I did not do so. She took steps to exclude me from the restaurants and withheld financial information from me."

Kent Chard added that his daughter's "pressure and the heavy turmoil of our disintegrating relationship" landed him in the hospital in January 2016. He stated that his daughter ceased paying her lease in January, accumulating more than $100,000 in unpaid dues by June.

Kent Chard also said in the court document that his daughter made offers to buy the buildings beginning in December 2015, but those offers were "unattractive." He and the other lessors decided by April that they would seek out other buyers, he said, and within a few months found someone offering $2 million more than his daughter.

But the lawsuit interfered with the timing of that sale, putting it in serious jeopardy, according to Kent Chard. It wasn't clear Thursday whether that sale has been completed.

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Ben Lockhart


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