The sign hanging in the window at Lou’s Sushi reflects the name of its chef and co-founder, Lou Valente, and a mural on a side of the popular midtown restaurant depicts the likeness of the man himself.
But at this point, the more apt name for the eatery might be, “Whose Sushi?” Though the restaurant remains open, Valente himself hasn’t sliced any sushi or worked in the restaurant for more than three weeks.
It’s unclear if he’s coming back as the acclaimed sushi restaurant remains embroiled in a dispute between Valente and some of his business partners.
On April 11, a lawsuit was filed in Sacramento Superior Court on Valente’s behalf against Daniel Walsh, the managing member of Lou’s Sushi LLC. The case lists five complaints including breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
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Walsh filed his own case on April 20 in Sacramento Superior Court against Valente and other members of the restaurant’s business team. The lawsuit includes counts of breach of fiduciary duty, intentional interference with contractual relations and other allegations. According to the lawsuit, Valente was terminated from working at Lou’s Sushi effective April 10.
The shake-up at the sushi restaurant has been underway since late-December, when Valente announced his intention to leave the partnership and dissolve Lou’s Sushi LLC. At the heart of both lawsuits are disputes about the arrangement of the LLC partnership and allegations on both sides of withdrawing funds for unauthorized uses.
Valente confirmed that he’s not currently associated with the restaurant that bears his name. “Lou’s Sushi” meanwhile remains open and overseen by Walsh.
“I’m still in the area,” said Valente. “I have some money saved, so I’m enjoying my time as much as possible.”
Lou’s Sushi debuted in October 2013 at the corner of 28th and P streets and established itself as a key destination for thoughtfully prepared Japanese food. Valente, who attended California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, spent more than two decades of his career dedicated to sushi, including local stints at Taka’s and Zen Sushi, and Ace Wasabi’s in San Francisco.
Each of the lawsuits are set for case management conferences this October in Sacramento Superior Court. Valente said all parties are meeting in the meantime to try and resolve their issues and perhaps avoid going to court.
In a perfect scenario, that could mean Valente returning to his signature sushi bar.
“I hope we can work things out sooner than later,” said Valente. “It’s hard not to be around the restaurant. It’s my baby, my dream come true.”