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Castro Restaurant Caught Serving Alcohol Without a License, Owner Jailed

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Cook Shoppe will close after this weekend, and the circumstances are very strange

Caleb Pershan

Months-old Church Street restaurant Cook Shoppe will close this weekend after an Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) inspection discovered the restaurant serving alcohol without a license and found a warrant for the arrest of one of its owners. Hoodline broke the strange story today, which Eater SF has confirmed with the ABC.

A replacement for long-running neighborhood favorite Chow, Cook Shoppe opened in May, and began serving beer and wine on day one. The business applied for a permanent license to serve beer and wine, but never received an interim license. When neighbors complained about the business, ABC officers came to the restaurant, and found that one of the restaurant’s owners, 29-year-old Laurence Tonner, was wanted in New York on unrelated charges. He was arrested on the spot.

“ABC has completed a criminal investigation following the arrest of one individual at 215 Church Street on August 16 for selling alcohol without a license,” a representative for the ABC told Eater. “Lawrence Tonner was booked in the local jail to face charges of selling alcohol without a license. He also faced a no bail warrant out of New York on a separate matter.”

A man who previously identified himself to Eater SF as “Mark White” and called himself a co-owner of Cook Shoppe now reveals he was just a restaurant consultant and investor, using an alias to help promote his friend Tonner’s business. At times, “White” also identified himself as Tonner, he admits.

According to NY records, in 2012, Tonner was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for second degree burglary. Also, in a perhaps unrelated incident, Page Six reported that Tonner was selling investors on a NY charity event in 2015, allegedly making the false claim that Lady Gaga and Elton John were performing (they weren’t).

According to “White,” Tonner — who is still on post-release supervision until this December — had stopped meeting with his probation officer in New York. “White” claims Tonner didn’t tell him this, and that Tonner also told him he’d gotten an interim license to sell beer and wine when he hadn’t.

“White” says he and Tonner will no longer work on Cook Shoppe, its replacement, or another business they had announced across the Street, to be called Gramercy Park. Instead, another co-owner of Cook Shoppe, John Di Iorio, will retain the leases, the man calling himself White told Eater. Cook Shoppe could become a quick-service restaurant in the coming weeks, the restaurant consultant said.

“We all thought this was a great opportunity,” said the consultant. “Up until two weeks ago I thought this restaurant was on an upward trajectory... I’m thoroughly embarrassed.”

Gramercy Park

, , CA 90018

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