Before running for Senate, did Keith Gross help run a Maryland restaurant into the ground?

Could a string of restaurant failures mean U.S. Senate candidate Keith Gross’ ambitions are cooked?

Gross was sued four times in Maryland over the management of a restaurant, Chris’ Steakhouse. At the time, a court ordered Gross to pay more than $6,000 to plaintiffs. And that’s just one of the business dealings that landed Gross in court in another state.

Over a relatively short period when Gross was associated with the Maryland restaurant, he had to pay out on claims from a number of professions. Courts in separate claims ordered him to pay upward of $1,000 to lawyer Stephen Allen, more than $2,000 to wholesale food distributor Sysco and another $2,000 to meat supplier A.M. Briggs, With court fees, Gross ended up shelling out more than $6,000 in the case.

The same year as those claims, Montgomery County in Maryland also sued Gross though that case was ultimately dismissed.

The cases all appear to stem from Gross’ involvement with Chris’ Steakhouse, a Gaithersburg, Maryland restaurant that was run by its founder Khrystos “Chris” Valanos and his wife, Lillian, for decades. The restaurant opened in 1964, but was sold in 2005, shortly before Chris Valanos’ 2006 death.

Commercial real estate agent Chuck Blessing purchased the restaurant but two years later told the Washington Business Journal that he’d gone through two managers who “tried to keep it afloat.”

Gaithersburg town officials later blamed bad management, more than economic conditions, on the restaurant closure.

“It was a little time capsule,” Tony Tomasello, assistant city manager for Gaithersburg, told the business journal at the time. “It didn’t close because of economic conditions in Old Towne Gaithersburg. The restaurant business is so owner-intensive.”

Blessing also was listed as a defendant in the A.M. Briggs complaint.

The historic building that once housed the restaurant is now occupied by DNC Architects.

A couple years later, Gross was also involved in a contract dispute in Georgia. In 2008, Marc Hershovitz sued Gross while the Senate candidate was based in Georgia. Hershovitz is a prominent business lawyer based in Atlanta, where Gross was also residing at the time.

The nature of the dispute wasn’t immediately clear, but Gross was ordered by the courts to pay $10,643 to the plaintiff. With court costs, he ultimately had to shell out nearly $15,000, an amount he did not cover in full until early 2014.

During Gross’ time in Georgia, the state also filed a tax lien against him for $520. That was filed in December 2013 and paid off six months later.

Gross has since moved to Florida and launched a GOP Primary challenge against Scott earlier this month. The Melbourne lawyer is notably highlighting his private sector experience. He heads Gross Law Group. His official biography lists him as a “very wealthy businessman, worth millions.”

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