It has been reported that for some unknown reasons, an upscale California hotel has suddenly reneged on a contract to host 700 New York City residents for the upcoming Passover holiday.
Even though the group plunked down a $1 million deposit with the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines in San Diego back in November, the hotel apparently had a change of heart. They have also remained adamant in their refusal to give back the advance money to the group’s organizers for their planned 10 day stay.
For the last several years, Passover trips of this kind have been coordinated and planned by “Prime Experience” – a specialized Passover getaway company headed up by Joseph Allaham, the owner of the Prime Grill restaurant in Manhattan.
Speaking to the NY Post, Mr. Allaham’s attorney, Mark J. Heller said that “the Hilton organization refuses to honor their commitment to host this event or to return the proceeds they received as an advance.”
To illustrate his point on how the Passover plans of so very many people have been upended at the last moment, Mr. Heller told the Post that one large family had paid $230,000 for all their members to attend the planned stay in sunny San Diego. In addition to presenting guest speakers that include prominent rabbis, the organizers also planned a camp for children as well as a bevy of entertainers for the attendees.
Citing a Passover themed analogy, Mr. Heller told the Post that “Just as the pharaohs in ancient days caused the Israelites to suffer and endure starvation, the Hilton management in La Jolla . . . has chosen to ‘pass over’ . . . guests by refusing to welcome them.”
The current status of the contractual dispute indicates that it is on its way to an arbitration board in California.
A spokesperson for the Hilton in San Diego did not offer reasons as to precisely why the hotel pulled out of the contract with the Passover trip organizers other than to tell the Post that it “does not comment on matters in pending litigation. The rules applicable to the arbitration which the hotel filed in California against the Passover group prohibit us from further comment.”
Mr. Allaham, however, is no stranger to lawsuits as his professional career has been replete with them.
In January of 2016, the Jewish Voice originally reported that the Lincoln Square Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side had claimed that Mr. Allaham did not follow through with providing $1.5 million he had promised to help finance a banquet hall in the synagogue’s new $50 million space. Mr. Allaham then placed blame on the synagogue for costing him potential revenue by delaying the hall’s construction.
Trying to bring the parties together in late 2016 to pursue an equitable resolution to this protracted matter was Rabbi Menachem Genack, the CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division. Rabbi Herschel Schachter of YU had previously served as arbiter in the matter and had issued a ruling that called on Mr. Allaham to pay Lincoln Square $1.4 million in addition to attorney fees and court costs.
Ultimatums are now being issued as the matter continues to heat up. It has been reported that Rabbi Genack had previously told The Jewish Week that the OU would rescind its kosher certification of Mr. Allaham’s restaurants if he did not comply with Rabbi Schachter’s ruling.
Mr. Allaham, however, has said that he did make a financial settlement offer to Lincoln Square Synagogue and that Rabbi Schachter not only approved of his offer but gave it is “blessing.” Mr. Allaham further alleges that Lincoln Square synagogue never responded to his offer but that it is still on the table for their consideration.
According to the article in the Jewish week, the proposed settlement deal allows for Mr. Allaham to make regular payments on the amount that Lincoln Square is asking for. That would translate into Mr. Allaham paying out the $1 million over a five year period ($200,000 a year). It was reported that Lincoln Square has begun to lose trust in the restaurant owner and never decided on whether to accept the offer.
Lincoln Square has access to Prime Grill’s financial disclosures as it was a result of the court order against Mr. Allaham that entitles the synagogue to an asset search. Sources connected to the synagogue have said that they believe that Mr. Allaham may be hiding assets and a synagogue representative was quoted as telling the Jewish Week that bank records belonging to Mr. Allaham indicate that he has been moving “hundreds of thousands of dollars” out of his accounts in rapid succession as of late.
By: Michael Galitziada