ITHACA, N.Y. — An online petition is calling for the reopening of Wings Over Ithaca under a new owner, after the previous owner was charged with 26 counts related to tax fraud last month.
About 30 people lost their jobs when the restaurant closed its doors last Friday after more than 10 years in business, former general Manager Mitchell Blinn said.
Owner Bruce McPherson, who now lives in West Springfield, Massachusetts, was charged with second-degree grand larceny, second-degree criminal tax fraud, four counts of third-degree criminal tax fraud, and 20 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“I was surprised because I was lied to,” Blinn said, but McPherson’s actions weren’t as surprising to him.
Blinn sad he knew there were some kind of tax issues with the restaurant a while back, but didn’t know the details. He said McPherson told him though, that he’d cleared up the problems.
“I was also told well over a year ago that it was taken care of,” Blinn said.
When the restaurant suddenly closed, he expected to just start over and begin looking for another job.
But his wife, who also worked at the restaurant, told him about an online petition she saw on Change.org on Monday. The petition called for the reopening of Wing Over Ithaca under a new owner — Blinn.
As a GM for the store for about 13 years, he said he has a relationship with the corporation — Wings Over — and reached out to them.
“They’ve told me if I can find the real estate and I can find the money they’ll look at it and they’ll see if it’s good to go. And we’ll get back up to going here in Ithaca,” he said.
He said he already has the support staff to run a great restaurant. His brother-in-law Chris Gardner and best friend Mike Moyer were assistant managers at the restaurant, and also out of a job now.
Plus, Blinn said, there are the 30 employees who were sad to see the restaurant close and already know the business.
“I thought that people just thought I was kind of the jerk, at the top of my lungs, yelling at people,” Blinn joked. “Apparently, I was nicer of a boss than I thought I was.”
He said, “It was kind of wild to experience all of that emotion.”
As of Tuesday, Blinn said he, Moyer and Gardner were looking at realty space near downtown Ithaca, hoping to find a spot to reopen the restaurant.
Featured photo courtesy of the Wings Over Ithaca Facebook page.