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Chefs + Restaurants

Return from Club Fed


Neil Stein helped create Philadelphia's dining and nightlife scene. His multimillion-dollar empire has mostly collapsed, but after serving ten months in a federal prison camp for tax evasion, Stein is back, and he's got some (legal) plans.

In 2005, on the eve of his trial, Stein pleaded guilty to three counts of felony tax evasion. He'd been charged with skimming hundreds of thousands of dollars from his restaurants and failing to pay taxes on the money, and he faced up to nine years in jail and a big, fat fine (taking a 366-day sentence was probably wise). By that time, Stein had already lost most of his restaurants. The usual vices, drugs and alcohol mainly— "$3,000 worth of Percocets a week and...five Martinis a day," Stein told The Philadelphia Inquirer—combined with an inflated ego and an explosive temper led to a series of poor business decisions, and his company filed for bankruptcy in 2003. Striped Bass, the most famous of his restaurants, was bought out of bankruptcy court by Stephen Starr. By Stein's reckoning, he's been a part of 19 restaurants over the last 30 years, but now, because Pennsylvania prefers not to give liquor licenses to felons, his last property, Rouge, is out of his hands as well (his daughter remains as one of the stockholders).

A stint in rehab in 2004 got Stein sober, and though he still owes a hefty sum in back taxes, he spent some of his time in prison working on a business plan for a high-end hotel and spa. It remains to be seen whether he'll be able to get backing, but given his track record for making money, it wouldn't be a huge surprise. One feature he's considering for the hotel could have been inspired by his recent stay in Club Fed: Instead of a check-in desk, he's thinking of having guests escorted to their rooms. The escorts will not be called "guards," however.