Prosecutors came down far harder last December on the proprietors of the Park Avenue Country Club sports bar, two of whom pleaded guilty to five felonies after defrauding the city and state of the comparatively meager sum of $1.8 million.
The Park Avenue Country Club closed months ago, but Cipriani USA should easily withstand the financial hit. According to Fortune, the company raked in roughly $140 million in 2006 alone, with plans under way on a reported $300 million hotel renovation in South Beach and another $70 million hotel revamp near Beverly Hills.
Mr. Cipriani’s endurance in the highly competitive Manhattan restaurant racket may have come as a surprise, given the level of opposition over the years. He survived a legal dust-up with ever-litigious building titan Donald Trump, who, Mr. Cipriani claimed in 2005, conspired with union leaders to nix a proposed Cipriani restaurant inside Mr. Trump’s swank Park Avenue condo tower.
He survived Eliot Spitzer, who, as attorney general, accused Cipriani of gender discrimination for not hiring enough female waiters.
He even survived the seemingly never-ending picket lines of Local 6, the hotel and restaurant employees union he sued during his 1999 attempt to bar its members from working at the Rainbow Room.
At the time, some industry experts believed the labor dispute might be Mr. Cipriani’s undoing.
“I think these guys have made mistakes every step of the way,” Tim Zagat, publisher of the Zagat restaurant surveys, then told The New York Times. “With a track record like that, you wouldn’t want to bet on them for the future. And having two competing catering halls of this kind is not a harbinger of success.”
Mr. Cipriani now operates a total of five catering halls in Manhattan—and, for now, one big lobby.