Earlier this year, the cancellation of a high-end Passover program shortly before the holiday left hundreds of guests in the lurch, and Joseph Allaham, the owner of Prime Experience, in a legal battle with an up-scale California hotel.
This week, a mutually agreed-upon arbitrator ruled that Prime Experience owes the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines $626,046.60 in cancellation damages, in addition to attorneys’ fees, costs of suit and arbitration fees, The Jewish Week has learned.
Glenn S. Gitomer, Prime’s lawyer, responded to The Jewish Week’s request for comment via email, stating that his client “disputes the conclusions of the Interim Award” and the “findings and analysis” of the arbitrator. Gitomer did not specify next steps.
The San Diego-based arbitrator ruled that Prime “failed to timely pay the deposits,” and “did not establish its claims of breach of contract against Hilton.” In April, another Allaham attorney blamed the hotel for canceling the program, claiming hotel personnel decided to cancel the Passover agreement on realizing the project would not be profitable.
“Hilton management … decided to cut their losses and attempt to avoid refunding the deposits on some bogus basis,” wrote attorney Mark J. Heller in a statement to The Jewish Week in April.
The biggest losers: the guests who paid between between $4,950 and $10,000 per person, not including flight fees, for a full 10-day stay at the hotel. Indeed, one family paid $230,000 to host relatives for the holiday. Guests were told they would have to wait for the case to be arbitrated before being reimbursed.
Attorney Gitomer wrote that “advanced deposits for this event will be paid in full.”
The attorney representing the Hilton wrote to the Jewish Week that “Hilton has no comment other than that we are pleased with the outcome.”
Meanwhile, Allaham shuttered the last of his upscale Manhattan eateries — The Prime at the Bentley — last week. The kosher steakhouse closed without notifying customers, some of whom still had reservations. Allaham’s landmark Prime Grill and its neighboring Pizza da Solo left the Sony Building in September, after a drawn out dispute with the property’s landlord. Though the Prime Hospitality Group told customers the restaurants would reopen in a “new location” after the Jewish holidays in October, it seems a new lease has yet to be signed. Prime Butcher Baker shop on the Upper East Side closed unexpectedly last month.
Last November, an arbitrator in a legal case involving Allaham’s 2015 Passover program in Puerto Rico ruled in his favor over the Vieques Hotel Partners, owners of the W Retreat and Spa. According to Allaham’s complaint, the hotel staff carried out “numerous repugnant and indefensible acts of hostility, bias, malice, discrimination, anti-Semitism … vandalism and theft” towards his staff and guests.
Allaham is involved in an ongoing financial dispute with Lincoln Square Synagogue on the Upper West Side regarding his services as caterer. Negotiations with the synagogue — to whom he owes $1.4 million, according to arbitrator Rabbi Herschel Schachter — stalled when synagogue representatives said they lacked faith in Allaham to follow through on an agreement.