Restaurant News

Bruce Molzan Leaves Corner Table While Restaurant Faces Partial Closure

CultureMap first reported Monday morning that controversial chef Bruce Molzan has left Corner Table, the restaurant he's helmed since it opened in December of 2012.

We called Corner Table for comment and received pretty much the same recited statement as CultureMap: "Corner Table and chef Molzan have amicably parted ways. Both parties are excited about the adventures that lie ahead." The representative for Corner Table went on to say that the restaurant, located at the corner of Westheimer and Virginia in Upper Kirby, will remain open and the owners, Darla Lexington and Michelle Coopwood will be announcing a new chef soon.

Molzan opened Corner Table after he was forced to close his well-known restaurant Ruggles Grill following a walkout by workers protesting non-payment of tips. At the time, the waitstaff at Ruggles Grill filed a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission, alleging that they were owed thousands of dollars in back wages. Molzan eventually admitted that his workers were indeed owed back wages, but not before his reputation became somewhat tarnished in the restaurant industry.

The scandal initially followed Molzan to Corner Table, where former employees picketed the new restaurant and its support of the man they felt responsible for cheating them out of wages. Eventually Corner Table seemed to start attracting the right kind of crowd, though, in spite of the fact that the concept--healthy Paleo and gluten free cuisine--wasn't exactly embraced by critics.

Lately, Corner Table has been involved in problems of another sort, though the representative we spoke to wouldn't confirm whether Molzan's sudden departure was related. On June 12, the city's planning commission voted 9-6 to deny owner Darla Lexington's second variance request, which would have allowed her to continue to operate Corner Table and the two surrounding businesses (The Oak Bar and Nightclub and 1919 Wine & Mixology) with insufficient parking per number of people served.

Because the variance request--essentially a plea for the city to allow Corner Table to deviate from the standard parking rules for a number of reasons--was denied, the city has told Corner Table that it "must close off 3,308 square feet of space in 30 days or else face fines and possible loss of its occupancy permit."

Residents of the neighborhood first brought the issue to our attention early this year, claiming that the parking and valet issues were disrupting the neighborhood and causing safety concerns (including the accidental death of a motorcycle rider due to a Corner Table valet driver's error).

No one will comment on the exact reason for Molzan's departure from Corner Table at this time, but we'd be pretty surprised if it's not in some way related to the restaurant's current issues. We'll let you know more as soon as we find out.

In the mean time, let us know: What do you think is next for Bruce Molzan?

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Kaitlin Steinberg