“Everything I did, I did to save my business”: the bankruptcy of Brasseries Georges, an institution in Nice, dissected in court

“Everything I did, I did to save my business”: the bankruptcy of Brasseries Georges, an institution in Nice, dissected in court
“Everything I did, I did to save my business”: the bankruptcy of Brasseries Georges, an institution in Nice, dissected in court

On the morning of December 7, 2015, the Nice commercial court declared the liquidation of Brasseries Georges. Two hours later, in the middle of the lunch service, it was the police who carried out the sentence. This institution on rue Guitry is forced to draw the curtain. To the great dismay of its owners.

The Bourge family would have tried to play the extension, hence the use of public force. It is in fact the departmental security which for seven years will continue to be interested in them and their bank accounts. At the end of a very long investigation, Patrick Bourge, his wife and his daughter-in-law appeared yesterday before the Nice criminal court. They are accused of bankruptcy, abuse of corporate assets and money laundering. And to have even destroyed all traces of his accounts.

Cash siphoned from the coffers

The former owners of Brasseries Georges would have happily dipped into the restaurant’s cash register. The public prosecutor mentions “several hundred thousand euros in embezzlement”. Cash payments which represented up to 30% of the 5 million euros in annual turnover were allegedly systematically siphoned off. Facts that the defendants partly acknowledge. On the other hand, what they vehemently contest, underlines one of their lawyers, Me José-Marie Bertozzi is “purpose” of these samples.

“Everything I did, I did to save my business”, insists Patrick Bourge at the bar. This is not the man’s first case. He ran the Ricord cellar, sold the Taverne Alsacienne, reinvested his assets in L’Embarcadère. This time, already, the story ended badly. With 3 million in liabilities to repay and the seizure of their villa in Villefranche.

The restaurateur is thinking of reestablishing himself in Belgium by purchasing the famous Georges brasseries in Brussels. The transaction collapsed at the last moment and he fell back on the old Flo, rue Guitry, in Nice. Hence its name change. But in another twist of fate, his investor dies while the contracts have just been signed. “I should have stopped everything”, recognizes the restaurateur. But he can’t bring himself to do it. However, the matter was plagued from the start. We must reimburse the pharaonic work and pay 25,000 euros in monthly rent. The bills are piling up. Even the insurance deadlines are no longer paid.

On the instructions of a “ghost” magistrate

Patrick Bourge uses cash registers to pay employees and suppliers in cash. He also transfers several tens of thousands of euros to his accounts in Belgium and a very mysterious company under English law. Was her mandate to buy a house in Madrid? The family denies it. “They only went to Spain once, thirty years ago, for their honeymoon”assures Me Bertozzi who in his pleading reveals that the cornered restaurateur would have come across a high-flying crook who was promising him refinancing.

Too late, with social charges no longer being paid, Urssaf ordered him to cease payments and Tracfin reported his suspicious movements of funds to the public prosecutor’s office. Thus begins the criminal investigation. “Based on a forgery”insists Me Candice Baudoux, also on defense. According to a report, the investigations were carried out “upon oral requisitions” of a magistrate who will, in reality, be transferred to Nice only a few months later! The lawyers of the defendants, among whom also includes Me Bonfante-Curti, jointly raise the nullity of the procedure. The prosecution cites a software problem. And President Isabelle Demarbaix does not intend to dispense with examining the facts.

A slate of 4.5 million

She dissects them carefully. Highlights the absence of any tax declaration from the defendants. “We have the impression that you organized your insolvency in France”, she says. The Bourges recognize “errors” but refute any personal enrichment. “At 60 we have nothing left, we will end up like tramps”, the restaurateur’s wife collapses at the bar. They would have left behind them a slate of 4.5 million euros according to the liquidation procedure. A note that Me Bertozzi finds it exaggerated. The lawyer does not hesitate to castigate the judicial administrator who had initially been mandated to support the restaurateur. He even accuses him of having failed the investors’ offer of 1.5 million euros to favor the 300,000 euros of “Cannes nightclub owners”.

To hear it, the crooks are not necessarily the ones we think. However, it is the former owners of Brasseries Georges who are being judged. And the prosecution is demanding sentences ranging from twelve to thirty-six months against them, mostly with suspended sentences, and tidy fines. The court will deliver its decision on September 4.



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