- In yet another round of controversy between restauranteur Ed "Jean Luc" Kleefield and his financier Lyle Pike of LGP Foundations, Southampton Village police were once again called to the now infamous Madame Tong's property on Thursday, June 11 to resolve the dispute of ownership between the two men.
"This is spiraling out of control and has taken up too much time," Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson asserted after speaking to both Kleefield and Pike Thursday afternoon. "This is ridiculous. It's a waste of time, and you can quote me on that."
Lyle Pike, left, and Kleefield were both warned by Chief William Wilson that violating civil law would land them both in jail.
Back in April, Kleefield was arrested in Southampton Village and charged on two counts of writing bad checks - totaling almost $300,000 - for the purpose of repaying loans handed over by Pike which were used to help finance Kleefield's restaurants, including Sag Harbor's Grappa Wine Bar and JLX Bistro, Prime 103 in East Hampton, and Madame Tong's in the village of Southampton. After Kleefield's arrest, he was released on $1,000 bail, clashing again with Pike on Friday, April 24, over ownership of the Southampton eatery on Elm Street.
Just before Memorial Day Weekend, the two men again were embroiled in a dispute over ownership, threatening the restaurant's weekend opening. Since then, according to the manager of the restaurant, the business has been running consistently.
"All I want to do is work," the manager said as he smoked a cigarette while standing on the steps of Madame Tong's, along with some of the restaurant's kitchen staff. "This is an on-going battle."
Kleefield is reported to have written the bad checks to Pike sometime in September 2008. In response, Pike has claimed ownership of the Southampton property. According to Chief Wilson, a notice of eviction was issued in favor of Pike by the Southampton Town Justice Court Thursday, however, that notice has not been served to Kleefield by the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, something that could take more than a week.
Police were called to the scene mid-afternoon by an unknown female. While there, officers had to inform a locksmith that he was not allowed to change the building's locks. "This is something that should be decided in the courts," Chief Wilson asserted. "The New York State court system will determine who the owner is."
While an eviction notice has been issued by the Southampton Town Justice Court, it has yet to be served to Kleefield by the Suffolk County Sherriff's Department.
Chief Wilson ordered the two men, as well as their lawyers, to take a walk-through of the property, noting that the condition of the property must be the same once the eviction notice is given to Kleefield. Until then, he advised, all parties should stop calling the police department. "I have three detectives with 100 man hours on this," Wilson could be overhead saying to the two men. "If anyone violates civil law, they will be immediately placed in jail."
Later, the chief asserted, "I would strongly suggest that they stop calling the police. If someone falsely reports an incident, that's something we would look to prosecute."