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Did a ‘Mafia soldier’ doom Boise’s Rascal Flatts & Meridian’s Toby Keith’s restaurant?

The Arizona Republic has an extraordinary story about bribery, intimidation and extensive use of profanity in the development of Rascal Flatts restaurants around the country.

As BoiseDev first reported in April of last year, the chain applied to build out a restaurant space on the ground floor of the Boise Centre East building. In August, Ussher Construction wrote the City of Boise and asked it to cancel the building permit it held for the restaurant. That same month, the only RF restaurant actually opened closed in Connecticut.

The Boise building permit would have transformed the vacant 6,412 square foot space into a restaurant with seating for 238 people. The full buildout was pegged at $1.05 million.

The band licensed its name and likeness to the venture but didn’t have an ownership take or control in the idea.

A tangled web

AZCentral screenshot – art for their story on Rascal Flatts restaurants

Phillip Lama controlled the original concept. He formerly worked for Boomtown Restaurants, the company behind a chain of failed Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill.

The Republic said Lama left Boomtown to launch the Rascal Flatts venture, which earned him a federal lawsuit with accusations of stealing trade secrets.

Frank Capri founded Boomtown, and the Republic describes him as “a former Mafia soldier in New York’s notorious Lucchese crime family.”

Capri and Boomtown filed another suit laying out a case against RF Restaurants for defamation.

Then, a year later, the cases were dropped.

The project evolves

Rascal Flatts restaurant, now closed, in Stamford, Connecticut. Courtesy photo

The Arizona Republic said Lama and his partner in RF Restaurants Chris Burka split over disagreements over money and experience. But Burka soldiered on with the concept, and the building permit for the Boise location is issued in Burka’s name.

The newspaper reports Rascal Flatt’s business manager approached Burka and they worked out a new deal for licensing. Burka then brought in his partner in another venture, Tawny Costa.

What Burka didn’t know, according to the paper, is that Costa is the mother of Frank Capri’s two children – and the reported former Mafia member’s girlfriend.

But the Republic says Costa and Burka were only the names on paperwork – instead Frank Capri was running the show.

Boise restaurant project cut off

Rascal Flatts’ restaurant site in the City Center Plaza as shown through the windows. It is currently being used for storage. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

The paper published a text message from Capri to Ray Rostho of Ussher Construction – mentioning progress on the Boise site.

“Des Moines is pouring slab. Boise has stopped and should start back up in the next couple of weeks and St. Louis has never started construction. I’m trying my best to push these jobs as fast as I can.”

The texts continue to gain greater urgency. Roshto told Capri in August that he would pull his license from six jobs, according to the Republic. Capri write Roshto again:

“I’m blocking your number,” Capri wrote on August 13th, according to the Republic, “This extortion attempt is being forwarded to my attorney. Harassment, threats extortion are illegal acts, so is evading taxes.”

Around the same time, Ussher wrote a letter to the City of Boise asking to cancel the building permit on the City Center Plaza. Roshto signed the letter.

Crews made no visible construction progress to the City Center Plaza location. It remains empty, and is currently in use for storage of materials relating to the Big Sky Basketball tournament.

The Republic published a series of voicemails from Capri, laced with profanity and threats.

“Call (that) f–ker tomorrow and go, ‘You know something, you lied straight to my face, you son of a bitch, and I’m so f–king pissed off I’m going to pull out of the whole f–king job. Get another f–king contractor to go there and deal with your f–king baby f–king bulls–t. … You trying to do that to me? F–k you. You go get another f–king contractor.'” A voicemail Capri left relating to a Cleveland Rascal Flatts project, according to the Arizona Republic

Boise Flatts & Keith restaurants linked

The Rascal Flatts project isn’t Capri’s first foray into the Treasure Valley real estate market. He previously announced plans for a splashy Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill at the Village at Meridian.

The project never materialized, but a lawsuit did. Village at Meridian developer Centercal sued entities controlled by Capri for eviction, and, according to the Arizona Republic, eventually won judgments worth $5.9 million.

More to read

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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