WICHITA — The relationship among the partners of Mike’s Wine Dive has, to put it in the parlance of the College Hill bar and restaurant, taken a dive.
Brothers Brad and Brent Steven are suing co-founder Whitney VinZant and several other people associated with the almost 2-year-old business near Douglas and Hillside.
“We all agree that the restaurant doesn’t work with all these cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, so we need to part ways,” Brad Steven says. “Either he takes full ownership or we take full ownership, and the lawsuit is to figure that out.”
The three have been friends since high school.
VinZant, who also now owns Gaslamp Grille & Lounge, had previous restaurant experience with Old Chicago and Jimmy’s Egg. The Steven brothers have bar experience through Club Indigo, which they still own, and Backstage Bar and Grill.
The three opened Mike’s Wine Dive in spring 2010. There’s a dispute over who owned what percentage when the business opened and who owns what now.
“There’s too many operating agreements,” Brad Steven says. “Everything is screwed up.”
VinZant says the brothers have a “disregard for the changes we tried to make.”
“We tried to put in place, you know, a more robust inventory management system,” VinZant says. “I’m not going to speculate as to why or how, because frankly I don’t know, but I do know that our costs on both food and beverage costs were really high. We weren’t running the profitability levels that we should be running there.”
The Steven brothers have been gone from the restaurant for a couple of weeks. VinZant says they’d like to buy him out, but he doesn’t want to sell.
“He never really is in town, so I’m not really sure who’s operating the restaurant,” Brad Steven says.
He says he hopes the restaurant continues to do well.
“I just don’t know how well it will do without Brent and I there.”
Regardless of how the lawsuit turns out, the longstanding friendship appears to be over.
“We haven’t really spoken on a friendship basis for quite some time,” Brad Steven says.
“It’s unfortunate,” VinZant says.
He says he simply wants to move on.
“The restaurant is really appreciated and enjoyed by a lot of people in Wichita, and we’re very thankful for those guests,” VinZant says. “I want to put all this behind us and move forward with getting back to business.”