Last night was also the night that Jesse Morreale and Sean Yontz -- the two faces most publicly associated with Mezcal and the guys who essentially ran the place during its first six years of business -- were no longer welcome on the premises.
This is a story that's still developing (and will likely continue to develop over the next few days), but here's what we know for sure right now, from the two principals involved:
Mezcal, which was owned in partnership between Morreale, Tim Connors, Steve Cohen and Chris Swank, will remain open and serving, just without Morreale overseeing the front of the house or Yontz in the kitchen. I talked to Morreale both last night and this morning, and he issued a terse statement about the change, saying simply: "Majority ownership of the restaurant decided to put a new management, marketing and publicity entity in place starting immediately."
This statement was confirmed by Connors on a phone call not long after. "The only statement we have," he said, "is that the ownership group made a decision to change managers, changing from M. Inc [Morreale's company] to the Basic Food Group."
The Basic Food Group is a management company that already runs such locations as the Great Northern Tavern, Avenue Grill and several Famous Dave's barbecue joints. Connors told me that he has taken a position as the "directing partner for the account" at Basic Food Group, and has already named two co-general managers: Danielle Scott and Roberto Diaz, both of whom have been with Mezcal since the beginning. Of course, Diaz has also been Yontz's right-hand man for going on twenty years, so this announcement surprised me just a little.
Morreale told me that, despite the sudden coup, he and Yontz "firmly believe that we can have good input" into the way things are being run at Mezcal (he has retained his ownership percentage and rights at Mezcal), and that if he thinks things are going sideways, "I'll make my voice heard."
In the meantime, he and Yontz are going to be focusing on their other properties, some of which are held in partnership with people from the Mezcal ownership group, some of which aren't. At Sketch, for example (which is theirs alone), Morreale and Yontz are looking at starting up breakfast and lunch service. And there's still the matter of their as-yet-unnamed Mexican restaurant, currently in build-out at First and Broadway.
Still, those are concerns for another day. Right now, Mezcal is the thing on everyone's minds -- both the restaurant and the delicious adult beverage. I'll pour out the details as I learn them.