Last week Eater reported "Bar Normandy Duo Breaks Up" referring to Chef Alex Lira and waiter and bar manager Philip Cohen. The two gave statements, with Lira wishing Cohen well and Cohen blasting Lira, saying in part, "I learned that you need to get things in writing, and you need to think very carefully about who you choose as your partner."
As Alex Lira tells it, he and Cohen were never partners. They were both employees of Mike Ray, the owner of Bar Normandy and Normandy Farms Bakery. Lira was salaried, and Cohen was hourly. So he's perplexed by the statement, even though he acknowledges that they were trying to negotiate a profit-sharing arrangement after he worked out a deal with Ray to take over the business. Cohen declined to comment.
Ray and Lira, who've known each other for six years, first hatched the idea of Bar Normandy at Chico Feo on Folly Beach. Ray told Lira he'd always wanted to put a little neighborhood spot in the bakery, which closed at 5 p.m. and sat dark every night. Lira was looking to do his own thing, so the two connected and one thing led to another.
Ray has been busy lately opening 1Broad on Broad Street, so when Lira suggested that he'd like to take the business over and run it himself, Ray figured it'd be one less thing he'd have to worry about.
"It's more his than mine," he says. "I didn't care, I make enough money doing other things and he's there all the time. Let's let him do it."
The two negotiated an agreement based on what would work for Ray, and Lira took over a week ago, basically subletting the space. He says he was looking to create a profit-sharing situation with Cohen but couldn't make it work based on his schedule of three shifts a week at 25 hours.
"You don't get something when you get ownership except more responsibility," says Lira.
Ray agrees. "Owning a business is like you get $30,000 coming in last month but it doesn't go in your pocket. $29,000 of it goes right back out."
Lira seems a bit trepidatious about being a business owner because now he's got more to do and more to worry about it, like payroll and expenses, but he's already been making the restaurant work and is glad his first business venture is small.
While some of us will surely miss Cohen's deep v-necks and the banter between him and Lira, not much else is changing at Bar Normandy. Lira will still be serving caviar at cost on Mondays, pouring a great wine list and cooking up magic on two portable burners.