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55 Pearl St. reorganization approved.

Byline: Martin Luttrell

WORCESTER - A judge in U.S. Bankruptcy Court has approved a Chapter 11 reorganization plan filed by Worcester Restaurant Associates LLC, which had operated G'Vanni's Ristorante Italiano at 55 Pearl St. for a few weeks before closing in January.

Bankruptcy Court Judge Joel B. Rosenthal confirmed the plan a week ago, allowing a third party proponent, 55 Pearl Street Restaurant Corp. LLC, to own and operate a restaurant in the building and make payment to approved creditors.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, a Suffolk Superior Court judge ordered the manager for the debtor to produce Massachusetts income tax returns for the years 1991 through 2007, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The new restaurant, called 55 Pearl Street, has been doing business since April. The new corporation was formed by Edward P. Madaus and associate Paul J. Demoga, who opened the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in March 2008. William Giannopoulos later joined as a third member.

Frank D. Kirby, whose family owns the building and owned the now-defunct G'Vanni's under different corporations, said last spring G'Vanni's suffered from internal disputes before the head chef abruptly quit and business fell off. Expenses were too great to remain open, and he closed the restaurant until another manager could be found to operate it.

Mr. Kirby, who resides in Connecticut, could not be reached by telephone for comment. His bankruptcy lawyer, William T. Stevens of Boston, did not return a telephone call.

Among the unsecured creditors listed in the case are the RFF Family Partnership LLP of Santa Monica, Calif., with a claim of $260,000. Other claims include $10,766 by National Grid and a total of $4,500 from the Internal Revenue Service and state Department of Revenue for withholding and meals taxes.

At the time 55 Pearl Street opened in April, Mr. Kirby said his family would have no interest and no involvement in the restaurant operation, and the reorganization, if approved, would largely pay creditors what they were owed.

The former G'Vanni's was owned by Worcester Restaurant Associates LLC, listed as debtor in the case. Worcester Restaurant Associates is owned by the Kirby Family Trust, a Massachusetts trust that lists the owners as Dr. Jacqueline P. Kirby and her son, John F.J. Kirby. Frank Kirby, Jacqueline's husband, serves as the debtor's manager, according to court documents.

Among the third party proponents is 55 Pearl Street Development LLC, owned by Jacqueline Kirby. That corporation will continue to own the building.

Mr. Kirby has said he wanted the building to be kept in a "high service public use," with a restaurant and the Alumni Club of Worcester, which operates on the upper floors. The nonprofit club's purpose is to promote lifelong relationships among college and university alumni living or working in Worcester County.

Mr. Kirby is a retired bankruptcy lawyer. On July 28 Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Connolly approved a request by the Department of Revenue for a writ of mandamus, ordering Mr. Kirby to file personal income tax returns for the tax periods ending Dec. 31, 1991, through Dec. 31, 2007.

According to an affidavit by Donald E. McGurk, a tax supervisor in the DOR's collections bureau, Mr. Kirby has never filed a nonresident or resident personal income tax return with the state. Mr. Kirby's lawyer in that matter, Edward DeFranceschi of Boston, declined to comment yesterday.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: The restaurant called 55 Pearl Street has been in business since April.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON
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Title Annotation:MONEY
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 13, 2009
Words:587
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