After learning details of their chef’s 2018 arrest this week, the owners of French Quarter hotspot Longway Tavern fired John Sinclair. Sinclair pleaded guilt to a pair of domestic abuse charges stemming from his arrest in September, but owners say they were unaware he physically attacked his ex-partner as outlined in allegations in the police report until now.
“At that point it was black and white,” Robert LeBlanc told Eater. LeBlanc co-owns the 10-month old tavern with Liam Deegan and runs LeBlanc + Smith, a restaurant group that includes local favorites Sylvain, Cavan, and Meauxbar.
NOLA.com reported yesterday that on March 20, 2018, NOPD responded to a call of domestic abuse at the home Sinclair shared with his then-girlfriend, who alleged an assault that included a stranglehold and described a history of violent behavior by Sinclair that was “getting worse.”
“Last time he beat me up he put me in a chokehold, gave me a concussion, bit me and fractured my elbow,” the woman told a police officer, according to the report.
LeBlanc says Sinclair told him about the arrest when it occurred last year (a few months prior to Longway’s opening), and that his company was prepared to stand by the chef based on the information given. It wasn’t until he was confronted with details of the arrest report by a NOLA.com reporter this week that things changed.
LeBlanc told Eater he was not aware the incident had been physical, and never saw a police report from that night. He acknowledges he could have done more to seek specifics of the altercation from a source other than Sinclair, and asserts that if he’d known the information in the report he would not have moved forward with Sinclair as Longway’s opening chef.
LeBlanc adds that Sinclair has been on a productive path since his arrest, taking many positive steps to improve himself, and that while it “feels weird” to not allow him to continue on that path at Longway, “we have to make a decision with the 175 people in our company in mind.”
Longway staff met on Wednesday, LeBlanc says, and plans for now are to focus on the existing team and ask everyone to step up in the absence of a head chef, particularly the restaurant’s two sous chefs.
Sinclair received a suspended sentence of six months and after serving two days in Orleans Parish Prison is now on probation, completing court-mandated community service and domestic violence classes.
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