There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Early this week a report surfaced alleging that Silver Spring restaurant Urban Butcher owes a supplier $33,495 for unpaid invoices dating back to July 2019. Seafax, the Maine-based company that issued the report, serves as a collections agency and an information hub for North America’s food industry.
Court documents reveal restaurateur Raynold Mendizábal‘s financial troubles run deeper, including an active court case where a contractor is seeking $147,408.
Mendizábal opened Urban Butcher back in 2013 at 8226 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring. A rooftop fire closed the restaurant for four months in 2015. The restaurant also closed more recently for renovations. “After having some work done after six happy years, urban Butcher is reopening Tuesday, June 11, 2019,” Mendizábal wrote on the restaurant’s website. “This time around, our shop is the canvas for bold urban art that fully actualizes my dream of an ‘alternative steakhouse’ in a truly authentic space.”
Urban Butcher serves dishes like bone marrow with gooseberry thyme jus ($16); a foie gras torchón flavored with black truffles ($18); steak and fries ($26); and its famous “Meat Mountain for Two” with dry-aged steak, pork chops, lamb patties, chicken sausages, charred vegetables, and condiments ($96).
“Company principal Raynold Mendizábal was contacted at a personal number shortly after collection placement, at which time he advised SEAFAX he lacked the financial sources to resolve this matter in full,” the Jan. 15 Seafax report states. “He said that some form of an installment plan would need to be established. Mendizábal then abruptly terminated the call and has refused to communicate with SEAFAX thereafter.”
Seafax reached an employee in accounts payable last week, according to the report. “That party expressed his understanding that Mendizábal had contacted the creditor directly and expressed a specific plan for repayment. The creditor owed the $33,495 reports Mendizábal has not committed to any form of a structured installment arrangement to date.”
The report does not mention the creditor by name and a Seafax representative says the company does not release that information. It could be anything from an electric company to a meat supplier to a construction company.
Additionally, the report says the Internal Revenue Service filed a $62,135 tax lien against Raynold Mendizábal in October 2019. Montgomery County Circuit Court documents confirm the timing and amount owed. The federal tax lien was levied against Mendizábal the same month Montgomery County Circuit Court documents show he paid off a state tax lien of $16,305.32.
Mendizábal is also involved in an ongoing contract court case in Montgomery County. In March, a commercial and residential contractor that operates in the D.C. region—JSV LLC—sued Mendizábal and his second Silver Spring restaurant, El Sapo Cuban Social Club, for $147,408 in the form of a mechanic’s lien. A court date appears to be scheduled for next month. Mendizábal filed a counterclaim, originally reported by Source of the Spring, for $400,000 on Nov. 12, 2019.
Reached by phone, the attorney representing JSV LLC declined to comment because the court case is active. JSV LLC did not respond to City Paper’s request for comment.
El Sapo opened at 8455 Fenton St. in Silver Spring in October 2018 serving ceviche, street food, and classic Cuban dishes like ropa vieja and vaca frita. Post food critic Tom Sietsema raved about the restaurant and named it the fifth best new restaurant to open in the region.
Bethesda Magazine profiled the Havana-born chef and restaurateur in July. According to the magazine, Mendizábal made several attempts to flee Cuba when he was young—on everything from an inner tube to a raft made out of plywood. The magazine reports that in 1994, “Mendizábal and his raftmates were picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard after five days in the water and taken to a refugee camp set up at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mendizábal remained there for a little over a year.”
Also according to the magazine, Mendizábal eventually was sent, with help from Catholic Charities, from Guantanamo to Pittsburgh. He worked as a dishwasher there, and his family moved to the D.C. area in 2000.
When initially reached by City Paper to discuss the Seafax report, Mendizábal said, “It’s not a matter for the press” and that “accounting is handling it.” Then he hung up. City Paper made repeated attempts to follow up after uncovering that there were additional liens and active court cases involving Mendizábal or his businesses, but he has not responded. City Paper will update this story if he makes contact.
This story and the headline have been updated to reflect new information about Mendizábal’s finances.