Legal dispute for sibling owners of Fort Worth restaurant Joe T. Garcia’s

A dispute among the sibling owners of one of Fort Worth’s best known and most beloved restaurants, Joe T. Garcia’s, has prompted one of the co-owners to sue his brothers and sisters.

Phillip Lancarte, secretary and one of the six sibling shareholders of the landmark family-owned business, brought the lawsuit to force his brother, Lanny, the president, and the other siblings to fully disclose the financial books and records of the corporation.

The suit charges that “Lanny…has repeatedly failed and refused to manage certain aspects of the corporation in a transparent manner, provided only limited or restricted access to some of the books and records of the corporation and has caused the corporation to send communications to Phillip or his attorneys wrongfully alleging that Phillip is individually liable for certain corporate or intra-company debts.”

Phillip Lancarte’s attorney, Frank Hill, said the suit was filed after attempts to bring the shareholders together to settle the dispute failed.

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“All we want is to settle this out of court through mediation,” Hill said.

The lawsuit states that Phillip has from time to state complained about the lack the transparency “but his complaints and requests for more transparency, for the most part, have been ignored.”

So, on April 30, Hill sent a letter on Phillip’s behalf, requesting specific information and records that he was entitled to have as a shareholder in the company.

On May 16, a response letter stated, “we are reviewing your demands in the context of what is legally required of us,” the lawsuit states.

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The letter “ignored the legitimate business and concerns” that Phillip had raised and instead accused Phillip of “alleged misconduct and disruptive activities,” with the “most troubling” being “baseless allegations that Phillip was personally liable for large sums of corporate debt.

The suit further claims that Lanny and the corporation have taken this position in retaliation for Phillip’s demands to see financial documents that are within his rights as a shareholder of the corporation.

Joe T. Garcia’s was opened by Mexican immigrants, Joe T. and his wife, Jessie, in 1935. With only six tables, the scratch-made Tex-Mex cuisine drew large crowds and grew over the years to one of the largest and most popular dining spots in Fort Worth, due in part to its popular outdoor patio.

After Garcia’s death in 1953, his widow and youngest daughter, Esperanza “Hope” Garcia Lancarte continued to run the restaurant.

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Under their leadership, the restaurant received an American Classics regional restaurant award from the James Beard Foundation.

Hope Lancarte arranged the formation of the corporation in 1979 for purposes ownership and management of the restaurant and its subsidiary businesses, including two locations of Esperanza’s Café & Bakery in Fort Worth and a catering company.

Since Hope Lancarte’s death, her six children, who are all shareholders, continue to run the corporation, Besides Lanny and Phillip, the others are Joe, Jesse, Zurella and Elizabeth.

The sibling’s attorney, J. Lyndell Kirkley, did not respond to a request for comment.