Boston, MA - It’s hard to think of a celebrity endorsed restaurant chain with a more unappetizing name than Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. This isn’t a slur against the food. Nor even his music. It’s the fact that you’d be eating at a restaurant called Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. You could serve haute cuisine or authentic St Louis style barbecue. You could have white linen tablecloths or peanut shells and sawdust on the floor. You’d still be eating at a restaurant called Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. You may as well call it Billy Joel’s I’m Sorry But I’m Drunk Saloon or Willie Nelson’s Guess What’s In My Beard Cantina.
At one point, there were 20 locations of the Toby Keith restaurant franchise around the country; including one in Foxborough’s Patriot Place Mall which closed last month after an eight year run, citing escalating rents and a refusal to work with franchise management. Now there are only three. Not surprisingly, Toby Keith has little to do with the operations of the chain. Or even the decision to license the chain. All but the remaining three of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill were operated by Boomtown Entertainment, a Phoenix limited liability company.
The Boston Globe has indicated that the Foxborough location of the Toby Keith chain was cited in 2016 for the highest number of customers cited for drunk driving from any Massachusetts establishment.
It’s no secret that celebrity endorsed restaurants have little to do with the actual celebrity outside of licensing their name. And it’s no secret that celebrity endorsed restaurants by and large tend to have limited shelf lives. And if it was merely a case of the Toby Keith restaurant franchise in Massachusetts closing, it would simply be one in another hundred or so failed ventures to openly flaunt a celebrity’s name.
Except... it’s the back story.
Boomtown Entertainment had been announcing plans to develop an additional 19 Toby Keith franchises since 2012. All but 19 remain unfinished or never begun. In 2015, the Arizona Republic published an expose detailing Boomtown’s grandiose schemes for expansion. Schemes that ultimately resulted in court settlements totaling $30 million as a result of unpaid construction and development fees. Court documents released last month indicate that the firm’s attorney, Greg McClure, was facing federal charges by the US attorney’s office for money laundering and embezzlement of over $1.5 million of Boomtown’s funds, allegedly to support his personal gambling habit.
Except McClure wasn’t the only one with skeletons in his closet. According to an article published in the Boston Globe earlier this week, Boomtown Entertainments’ owner, Frank Capri, is actually a former associate of the New York based Lucchese crime family named Frank Gioia. After a 1993 arrest for drug trafficking, Gioia—who also went by the nicknames of “Baby Face” and “Spaghetti Man”—agreed to testify in federal court against his former associates as well as his own involvement in the murder of Genovese family associate Frank Mariconda. It was an act that prosecutors claim helped them solve over 70 murders connected to the Lucchese and Genovese families; as well as one year in prison for Gioia and eventual settlement in the Federal Witness Relocation Program under the name Frank Capri. A name he used to establish himself as a real estate developer and budding entertainment mogul.
According to Arizona Central reporter Robert Anglen, who first broke the story of the Gioia/Capri connection in 2017, ““No background checks, no amount of vetting, no financial examination and no legal review would have revealed Capri’s record as a confessed murderer, drug dealer, gun runner, arsonist, extortionist, loan shark, and leg breaker. That’s because the Witness Protection Program isn’t set up to protect the public.”
Just for the sake of noting coincidences; the first Kenny Rogers Roaster Chicken franchise opened in 1991. 1991 was also the same year of the opening prosecution trial which eventually sentenced John Gotti to life in prison.