Earlier this week, LoHi’s Avanti Food & Beverage signed on Austin staple, East Side King. The globally influenced Japanese street food concept headed by Top Chef winner and James Beard Award recipient Paul Qui was set to open in early May in American Grind’s previous space within the collective eatery. Once called “the most talented chef in the first 12 seasons of the show,” by head judge Tom Colicchio, the announcement didn’t come without controversy.
In March 2016, the influential chef was arrested for assault against his girlfriend, which allegedly took place in front of her child. However, last April those charges were dropped — despite the police report noting there was blood smeared on walls, a fresh cut on her right forearm, bruising on her arms and that her jaw was “slightly puffy and swollen.” In the report, it did not mention Qui sustaining any injuries and Qui confirmed his girlfriend did not assault him. As a result, there has been backlash against Qui in Texas and now Denver.
Kate Lacroix, Boulder resident and Colorado food PR professional, pushed back against the decision by calling upon Avanti owner Patrick O’Neill to withdraw them from the Denver location. She said in the meantime, she would actively seek to terminate their lease for Avanti’s Boulder expansion.
“For anyone who thought #metoo was just a paper tiger, I am here to set the record straight. Paul Qui is not welcome in town and I will use my influence to ensure Patrick O’Neill is held accountable for this decision. Read the police report and Qui’s quotes about the incident, it’s disgusting,” said Lacroix.
It seems like Lacroix’s call did not fall on deaf ears as Avanti replied and acted swiftly. In an email to 303, Avanti released a statement below saying they will now cut ties with Qui.
“We apologize to our guests, our tenants, and our team for misjudging the severity of the situation surrounding Chef Qui. At Avanti we pride ourselves on offering a safe, all welcoming environment. We want our actions to speak louder than words and therefore have cut all ties with Aqui Hospitality and East Side King. Our priority is to listen to our community and continue to support Denver’s culinary scene and aspiring restaurateurs.”
It is unclear who will now take the vacant spot as American Grind, which formerly held the spot, will open a brick and mortar location in Wash Park (431 East Bayaud Avenue) later this spring. But what is now apparent is how Avanti and Denver’s food scene are willing to act when it comes to the issue of assault.
Editor’s Note: this article was updated to include information of the assault and the ongoing backlash.