Restaurant News

Vendors Say They Were Screwed Out of Thousands by Beer Nation

Apparently, "Sketch Nation" Was Already Taken
Apparently, "Sketch Nation" Was Already Taken Photo by Josh Armendariz

When we last checked in on the misleadingly monikered Beer Nation, it was shuttered in June by the property owners for not paying rent, and its manager and owner were ignoring our questions. Now, two Houston vendors say the owners stiffed them out of a combined $37,000.

John Curtin of Little John's Refrigeration told the Houston Press that his company installed three walk-in coolers and provided an ice machine for lease, and while the folks behind Beer Nation made the first five payments, they missed the last eight, screwing Little John's out of roughly $22,000.

Additionally, a representative of Tri-Electric said his company is owed $15,000 for electrical work, for which the company is preparing to file a lien.  

Prior to Beer Nation's opening in April, Curtin said, he met Beer Nation manager Larry Kakos and business partner Jonathan Clark at a restaurant trade show. According to Curtin, Kakos and Clark explained that they owned strip clubs in Detroit and had wanted to open one in Houston, but couldn't afford a license, so they decided on a restaurant. (Kakos previously worked at Detroit-area strip club Tycoons.)

In case that's not odd enough, here's more: While the owner of Beer Nation is — at least on paper — a Detroit-area dude named Scott Hait, Curtin said he was told the owner was a fellow named Jake Wilson. Curtin said he only spoke with Wilson on the phone, and that it was Wilson who claimed, after the first missed payment to Little John's, that his company's bookkeeper had embezzled $400,000, which is why there was a cash-flow problem. (Another excuse for a missed payment, according to Curtin, was that Kakos ran out of checks.)

We've tried multiple times to reach Wilson through a phone number and email provided by Curtin, but we haven't heard back. We also haven't received any response from Kakos, or from Hait's Houston attorney, Trent Stephens.

"They didn't even tell us they were shut down," said Curtin, who added that he was a bit weirded out by his first visit to Beer Nation after it opened. He said employees spoke loudly and openly about how they hadn't been paid.

A representative of property owner Greenberg and Company declined to comment, or to answer questions about the elusive Wilson.

Considering that Hait and several co-defendants had recently agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a money-laundering lawsuit in Michigan, and that he also ran an Indiana bar into the ground in November 2016 — for which he was sued by the landlord for not paying rent — it's difficult to understand why Hait and his business partners wanted to open a mediocre restaurant in Houston. Perhaps one day we'll get to the bottom of this saga.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow