The bitter family feud that led to the closure of Brennan’s restaurant in the French Quarter is now spelled out in a lawsuit by the Brennan heir who once operated the 68-year-old institution.
The lawsuit filed this week in civil court by Ted Brennan and his daughter Bridget claims that one branch of the family staged a hostile takeover of the eatery’s iconic pink building at 417 Royal St., while another forced him from keeping the kitchen open.
“Because of the actions of others, Ted and Bridget Brennan lost everything. They lost their building, their stock in Brennan’s is worthless and now they’re hurting. They want justice,” said the Brennan’s attorney, Todd Slack.
The downfall of the once-popular restaurant is a twisted tale of bad blood that spilled over into a string of lawsuits, but the origins of the collapse can be traced to the three Brennan brothers – Ted, Pip and Jimmy – who inherited the restaurant from their father, the founder of the establishment, Owen Brennan.
Things started to unravel with Jimmy’s death in 2010. His shares in the restaurant went to his daughters at a time when the restaurant was facing financial difficulties.
In the 18-page suit, Ted Brennan claims that the daughters, Shawn and Samantha, inherited $7 million from their father’s insurance policy. Instead of paying off Jimmy’s share of the restaurant and the debt he had incurred, the daughters formed a corporation that purchased the French Quarter building. The corporation then pushed the restaurant into bankruptcy by demanding rent they knew the restaurant couldn’t pay, then refusing payment when it was offered, according to the lawsuit.
“On multiple occasions, Shawn, Samantha and the Succession refused to accept payment,” the suit states.
Another unfair blow came in 2013 when Pip Brennan won a federal lawsuit to oust Ted from his ownership share of the restaurant, the new lawsuit claims. At the time, Pip blamed the restaurant’s financial difficulties on Ted’s management.
“In seven short years, Brennan’s has come from being one of New Orleans premier restaurants to its current state of financial chaos,” Pip told WWL-TV in an interview.
In June 2013, employees of the restaurant showed up for the dinner shift to find the building locked and the business closed. About 100 workers lost their jobs with the sudden closure.
“Pip improperly used court proceedings in order to gain control of Brennan’s and oust Ted and Bridget as the rightful officers and directors,” according to the lawsuit filed Monday.
The court ruling that allowed Pip to throw Ted overboard was eventually reversed on appeal, but by then it was too late, Slack said.
“There were a lot of missed opportunities,” Slack said. “People definitely interfered with Ted and Bridget’s attempts to make the restaurant succeed. And we want to find out why.”
To make matters even more confusing, the building was sold in 2013 to Ralph Brennan, a cousin of the three brothers. Ralph is connected to several other restaurants in the famed restaurant family tree, including Commander’s Palace, Mr. B’s and Ralph’s on the Park.
While those other establishments in the Brennan constellation of white tablecloth stars are thriving, the future of Brennan’s – and the building that once housed it – remains buried in lawsuits and a bitter family rivalry.
In the suit, Ted and Bridget Brennan ask for unspecified damages, claiming abuse of the legal process, unfair trade practices and emotional distress.
Attorneys for the defendants did not return calls for comment.