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Tribune Tavern Closes Amid Federal Lawsuit Against Former Owner

It’s part of deep, complicated set of allegations against a big-time Oakland investor

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Tribune Tavern, a restaurant in the base of the Oakland Tribune Tower that was opened in 2013 by dubious businessman Tom Henderson, has suddenly closed, the East Bay Express reports. Henderson, who once owned the Oakland landmark, committed fraud and misappropriated funds according to a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit this spring, allegedly exploiting the EB-5 visa program. That program, used by the likes of Jared Kushner, is designed to use foreign investment to spur domestic growth, allowing foreign nationals to qualify for a U.S. Visa in exchange for job-creating investments.

Tribune Tavern was once a joint venture with Oakland restaurateur Chris Pastena (Chop House, Calavera). But Henderson and Pastena parted ways (and not amicably) in 2014, with Pastena retaining control of Jack London Square’s Lungomare, in which Henderson had made investments. "I'm invested in Oakland and its future and hopefully a positive contributor to it, and it seemed like he was on that same path," Pastena told EBX in a recent interview. Henderson, meanwhile, retained control of the Tribune Tavern. SEC filings show Henderson put $3.8 million raised through EB-5 investors into restaurants without making proper disclosures to those investors.

Meanwhile, in a deposition with SEC attorneys last year, Henderson admitted to eating at the restaurant as many as five times a week, providing free meals to his business associates, his son, and his girlfriend. In his suit against Henderson, Pastena alleges that Henderson used Pastena’s name and history of success building restaurants for his own gain.

After Henderson was sued by the feds, the tavern was reportedly under receivership, with two other partners, Michael Luong and Robert Soviero, running the operation. The SEC lists them as interested parties, and they had reportedly expressed interest in taking over Henderson’s investment. There has been no comment from Henderson, Soviero, or Susan Uecker, the court-appointed monitor. However, while reservations are still available via Yelp reservations, no one is answering the phone. Stay tuned for more.