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My Neighbor Felix sues to shut down ex-manager’s LoHi eatery, Alma Fonda Fina

A new LoHi restaurant is feeling the heat from one of the city’s most prominent restaurateurs.

My Neighbor Felix, the casual Mexican restaurant at 1801 Central St., sued its former executive general manager Kasie Curiel and her business Alma Fonda Fina on March 11 and requested a temporary restraining order.

If approved, the restraining order would close Alma Fonda Fina for an undetermined period of time. A hearing will be held this Friday.

Curiel worked at My Neighbor Felix for three years before she was terminated in April, according to the lawsuit, which doesn’t detail why she was let go. In December, she opened Alma Fonda Fina at 2566 15th St. with her husband Johnny, the former culinary director for the parent company of My Neighbor Felix, Lotus Concepts.

A spokesperson for Curiel and Alma Fonda Fina declined to comment.

Francois Safieddine, founder and CEO of Lotus Concepts, did not respond to requests for comment. The company opened LoHi’s My Neighbor Felix in 2020. The concept has since added locations in Centennial, Boulder and Colorado Springs. Lotus’ other brands include ViewHouse and Wonderyard Garden + Table, which recently opened in Ballpark.

As executive general manager, My Neighbor Felix said that Curiel knew “trade secrets” and other confidential information, according to the restaurant’s lawsuit. Because of that, Curiel signed an agreement in January 2020 to not work, manage, own or operate a business that competes within a five-mile radius of a Lotus Concepts restaurant for two years after termination.

According to Google Maps, Alma Fonda Fina is one-half mile from My Neighbor Felix.

“Defendants were free to open a competing business so long as they complied with the non-compete provisions, waited another eighteen months, or simply opened a different type of dining restaurant,” the lawsuit states.

My Neighbor Felix claims the business reached out to Curiel in November to warn that her involvement in Alma Fonda Fina violated the agreement. According to the lawsuit, Curiel disagreed and said the two restaurants would not be competing because Alma would be “fine dining,” not casual.

According to court documents, a competing business was defined as a “full-service Casual Mexican dining restaurant or restaurant whose menu primarily features craft Mexican cocktails, locally sourced ingredients, and that derives forty percent or more of its gross sales from the sale of alcohol.”

While Curiel claimed the businesses weren’t competing, My Neighbor Felix argues that Google search results describe the restaurant as “casual” and “comfort food” — not fine dining.

Further, My Neighbor Felix pointed to a November Denver Post article about Alma Fonda Fina that stated Johnny Curiel would showcase his experience from working at Mexican restaurants like My Neighbor Felix.

Because of the competition, My Neighbor Felix claims it has and continues to lose revenue and customers. A judge will decide during a Friday hearing whether to approve the restraining order and temporarily close Alma Fonda Fina.

My Neighbor Felix is represented by Springer and Steinberg P.C. attorneys Jeffrey A. Springer, Harvey Steinberg and Joel A. Richardson. They did not respond to requests for comment.

This story was reported by our partner BusinessDen.

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