July 29, 2020

These new suits follow at least two other Greater Washington restaurant groups that filed complaints against a Travelers subsidiary in July.

Celebrity chef José Andrés's ThinkFoodGroup and Central Michel Richard are the latest among a growing number of Greater Washington restaurant businesses filing lawsuits against their insurance provider saying they were wrongfully denied coverage for losses sustained during the Covid-19 pandemic.

ThinkFoodGroup's lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for Maryland's southern district on behalf of 16 restaurants covered under a policy from The Travelers Cos. Inc. (NYSE: TRV), including Minibar, Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytina, China Chilcano, Beefsteak and other operations. The group says that despite the fact that it had paid premiums for business interruption insurance, Travelers' denial of a claim for coverage was done "in bad faith," according to a press release. The premium on ThinkFoodGroup's 2020 policy is $456,155, according to the suit.

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Central Michel Richard, located at at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The restaurant has a premium this year of $28,109, according to its suit. Owned by a group of people, Central has been managed by a team of of founder Michel Richard's former colleagues since his death in 2016. The restaurant, which gets a lot of its business from tourism and from business meals, is currently closed for a "summer recess" with plans to reopen in the fall.

Both parties are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC of D.C. and California-based Gibbs Law Group, which are also representing two other Greater Washington restaurant groups, Fabio Trabocchi's FT Group and Robert Wiedmaier's RW Restaurant Group, that have filed lawsuits against Travelers subsidiary The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Co. of Hartford, Connecticut. The firms also represent fast-casual spot GCDC, a grilled cheese-centric restaurant, in an earlier suit that is ongoing.

The two firms have formed a task force to review insurance claims on behalf of restaurants and small businesses across the country. On Thursday, The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will hold a hearing to decide whether to consolidate hundreds of Covid-related insurance cases into a class-action lawsuit, as many such suits have been filed across the country.

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