The former owners of a popular Old Port restaurant have been indicted by the Cumberland County grand jury on charges of theft by deception and negotiating a worthless instrument.

Renowned chef Shannon D. Bard, 47, was indicted on Class C felony charges of theft by deception and negotiating a worthless instrument, according to the March list of Cumberland County grand jury indictments.

Her husband, 62-year-old Thomas Bard, was indicted on Class B felony charges of theft by deception and negotiating a worthless instrument. The couple live in Kennebunk, according to the indictment.

The Bards operated Zapoteca, a well reviewed Mexican restaurant on Fore Street, for six years before it closed in June of last year. Shannon Bard, who published a cookbook two years ago, rose to fame through TV cooking appearances, taking the top prize in 2014 from the Food Network show “Kitchen Inferno.”

But by September last year, the couple were facing a dozen lawsuits filed by vendors who say the couple left a trail of unpaid bills when they closed.

The restaurant was among the most highly regarded in Portland and Bard was well known even beyond Maine, with appearances on cooking competition shows on the Food Network and a cookbook published two years ago. The couple said they decided to close it and concentrate on a restaurant and cooking school in their hometown of Kennebunk so they could spend more time with their children, who are in high school and college.


They made no mention of the lawsuits filed in Cumberland County courts that suggest increasing financial pressures on the restaurant starting last fall.

The suits paint a picture of Bard that is starkly at odds with her national reputation as an acclaimed restaurateur who has cooked at the world-famous James Beard House in New York.

In November, Independent Restaurant Supply of Portland, which sells silverware, furniture and kitchen equipment to restaurants, filed suit against the Bards, claiming it was owed $6,000 by Bard Enterprises, the parent company of Zapoteca.

In the suit, the company said Zapoteca had ordered supplies from the company through 2013 and after that made only occasional payments, “which ended in June 2015 along with any communication regarding their outstanding balance.”

In November, Tom Bard, who operates Bard Enterprises, spoke briefly to the Portland Press Herald, playing down the couple’s financial difficulties.

“We’re working with everybody” to settle the bills, he said. “Closing down a restaurant is never an easy thing to do.”


Bard said Zapoteca was “a good, strong, profitable restaurant,” and suggested that some of the financial problems they have experienced stemmed from Mixteca, the restaurant the two operated in New Hampshire.

“Everything kind of got pushed up from there,” he said. “We’re basically working through it and that’s all I’ve got to say about it.”

Other creditors who filed suit included a natural gas supplier, which said it was owed nearly $13,000, with court costs; Micucci’s, an Italian grocer in Portland, which said the restaurant owed it nearly $900, with additional costs for its attempts to collect the money; a restaurant supply company, which said its $6,000 bill had not been paid; a food service company, which said it had an unpaid bill for slightly more than $10,000; and Republicash, a check cashing and payday loan company, which filed suit for $9,000 after it said the restaurant’s paychecks to employees bounced.

Many of the suits were filed last spring and summer, while others date even further back, including one in which a New Hampshire landlord claimed to be owed more than $70,000 for a restaurant named Mixteca that Bard operated in Durham, New Hampshire, and closed in January. That debt is impinging on Tom and Shannon Bard’s private life, with a lien placed on the couple’s 227-year-old, $440,000 house near downtown Kennebunk.

Casco View Holdings III, the landlord of the building that housed the Portland restaurant, also filed suit against Zapoteca, claiming the restaurant failed to pay its rent in January. In November, the rent was more than $6,600 a month, with taxes, trash collection fees, water bills and a late fee pushing the tab to over $10,000 a month.

Sergio Ramos, the former manager of Zapoteca, also filed suit against the restaurant, saying the company had not paid him in line with the terms of his $50,000-a-year contract, which also had a provision that would allow him to buy a piece of the business, with increasing amounts depending on how long he worked there. The lawyer handling the suit for the former manager said the dispute has been ordered into arbitration and he declined to discuss the details.

Several of the lawsuits against the Bards were resolved as default judgments because the Bards did not show up to contest them.

Agera Energy, the restaurant’s natural gas supplier, filed suit after it claimed the Bards failed to pay a bill for $8,081. Interest added more than $1,700 to the tab, plus $3,000 for attorney’s fees, for a total of $12,803.72, more than 50 percent above the original bill. The lien filed by 6 Jenkins Court, the New Hampshire landlord of the restaurant there, is accruing interest at a rate of nearly 7 percent.

Trimark United, a food service and equipment supplier, said it was owed $10,007.90 by the Bards. That company’s suit also alleged that Tom Bard changed a section in the credit agreement between the company and Bard, crossing out information indicating that the couple owned their house in Kennebunk and instead, writing that the house was rented, possibly an attempt to shield it if the company sought to collect any unpaid bills by putting a lien on the house. Trimark United’s suit against the Bards indicated that the company was seeking half the value of the house, or $220,000, as a punitive measure.

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