Country Star's Bar Shamed

Sad song: A country music mega star's new Houston bar is accused of stiffing contractors, not paying its taxes

Sad song: A country star's bar stiffs contractors, fails to pay taxes

01, RodeoHouston, Toby Keith concert, February 2013
Country singer Toby Keith is estimated to profit $12 million yearly from his share of the restaurant chain. Photo by © Michelle Watson/
Toby Keith I Love This Bar and Grill
Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, located inside West Oaks Mall, is under fire for allegedly failing to pay thousands of dollars to contractors. KPRC 2 News
Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill Houston interior with crowd
Although the chain's original restaurant in Las Vegas was one of the top-50-grossing restaurants in the nation, the parent company appears to be having problems making payments. Toby Keith Houston
01, RodeoHouston, Toby Keith concert, February 2013
Toby Keith I Love This Bar and Grill
Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill Houston interior with crowd

Prominent country music singer Toby Keith is in the spotlight in Houston, but it has nothing to do with his music.

The country star's eponymous chain restaurant Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, which opened inside West Oaks Mall in March, is being accused of stiffing contractors and not paying its bills.

Andre Snell, owner of A&I Flooring, was originally looking forward to the $104,000 payday for his company's work on the Toby Keith location at West Oaks Mall, but now that the project is finished and the restaurant is open and going strong, he's upset he still hasn't been paid in full.

"I don't like that bar very much," he tells KPRC. "They owe me money, and not just myself. They owe a lot of people money."

Snell says he installed nearly 20,000 square feet of flooring at the West Oaks Mall location. Although the job originally excited him, he claims it "ended up being a nightmare."

 "They owe me money, and not just myself. They owe a lot of people money." 

According to Snell, he had to file a lien to receive his first payment, one which was ultimately paid by West Oaks Mall itself and not Toby Keith's ownership group. Not only that, but following completion of the job, Snell says the parent company never paid the remaining $12,500 he is owed.

Arizona-based Capri Restaurant Group Enterprises — operating locally as CRGE Houston, LLC — purchased the rights to Keith's name and image to use for the business, which also operates as Boomtown Entertainment.  The bar and restaurant chain is a cash cow according to Forbes, which estimates that Keith alone profits to the tune of $12 million annually from the chain.

"I feel like maybe [Toby Keith] doesn't know and they're just using his name and maybe he's just signing off on it, because I'm sure he wouldn't approve of anything like this," Snell says.

The operators of the Toby Keith chain insist everything will soon be resolved though.

"Paperwork is being processed for all contractors to be paid in the next 10 days," John Thomas, vice president of marketing for Boomtown Entertainment, tells CultureMap.

"I've heard this story for two years," Snell says. "So if it happens, great."

Kevin Lyons, press secretary for the Texas comptroller's office, reported that as of Thursday, CRGE Houston owes the state more than $31,000 in back taxes, although Thomas claims the company paid in full.

Rather unsurprisingly, the new Houston area Toby Keith's isn't the only location in the chain allegedly failing to pay its bills — it appears to be a national problem.

According to court documents, Michigan-based Parkway Electric & Communications, LLC filed a complaint with a local district court in that state against CRGE Houston  in July. Parkway Electric alleges that CRGE Houston owes them more than $90,000 for services rendered for the Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill in West Oaks Mall as well as damages incurred from failure to receive payment.

In Feb. 2013, a complaint was registered against CRGE Cincinnati, LLC for the Toby Keith bar located there. Court documents show the complainant alleges CRGE Cincinnati did not pay rent for the bar's 77,000-square-foot space for three months — totaling more than $121,000 in back rent — even after receiving several notices from the landlord.

In total, CRGE has appeared in at least 13 legal cases across the country (there are 16 active locations listed on the restaurant's website), most of which allege breach of contract. In April, New York State filed a tax warrant against the Toby Keith's in Syracuse for allegedly owing more than $189,000 in back taxes, and in March, Tucson Mall sued the company for breaking a nearly $1 million-a-year lease after only 14 months, in spite of signing on for five years.

The mall spent nearly $4.3 million getting a 20,000-square-foot space ready for the Toby Keith's restaurant and the closure left approximately 50 people unemployed.

All the while, Toby Keith isn't saying anything as he collects the profits from his lucrative naming deal.