Former Maple & Ash co-owner struggles in new restaurant venture after eviction, loan default

The restaurant Etta, 1840 W. North Ave., is still doing well, according to owner David Pisor, who recently defaulted on a loan to shore up his restaurant group.

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A former co-owner of Gold Coast steakhouse Maple & Ash is struggling in his new business venture.

David Pisor — owner of Etta, Aya Pastry and Cafe Sophie — defaulted on a $2.5 million loan last week, a day before his Etta’s location in Scottsdale, Arizona, filed for bankruptcy. On Monday, Pisor abruptly closed Etta’s River North location, reportedly giving his employees two hours’ notice.

It’s an unfortunate turn for the restaurant group run by Pisor, who recently co-headed Maple & Ash, the highest-grossing restaurant in Chicago. His restaurant group, Etta Collective, months ago signaled plans to expand to Evanston and Dallas, Texas. A Beverly Hills, California, location is also in the works, according to the website.

But that’s on hold as Pisor restructures his company and addresses what he called “problems.”

“There’s things out there we are working on,” Pisor told the Sun-Times, declining to elaborate. “We’ve identified and worked through [those problems]. Our goal is to emerge from them stronger.”

Pisor said he hopes things turn around in next two or three months. And his Etta location in Bucktown is still thriving, he said.

His restaurant group has been struggling to pay its bills for months, according to a Jan. 17 loan default filing by lender Wintrust Bank in Cook County court, first reported by Crain’s Chicago Business.

The now-closed Cafe Sophie in Gold Coast was served an eviction order in December, according to the filing. Pisor’s company owed over $86,000 in rent at the location at 847 N. State St.

Pisor closed Etta’s River North location at 700 N. Clark St. on Monday and gave employees only two hours’ notice, Crain’s reported. Pisor acknowledged that short notice was given, but said it was to ensure everyone got their paycheck. “The most important thing is that we were making sure everyone got paid,” he told the Sun-Times.

According to a Jan. 2 email in the filing, Pisor told bank officials that he was restructuring the company. He wrote there “are a number of leases that we cannot execute.” He also wrote that he planned to sell property at 1332 W. Grand Ave., where Aya Pastry is located. Pisor on Thursday said there was no plan to sell the business there.

“And there are a whole lot of bills from the separation that were not disclosed,” Pisor wrote, referring to his split from former business partner, James Lasky.

He and Lasky opened Etta together in 2018 in Bucktown. The pair also cofounded Maple & Ash in 2015. But a bitter fallout and nearly year-long court drama ended with the pair splitting the restaurant group among themselves in early 2023. Lasky got Maple & Ash, while Pisor organized his restaurants under the Etta Collective. An ongoing lawsuit by Maple & Ash investors alleges financial malfeasance by its owners.

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