Court documents tell story of no rent payment, broken trust in eviction of Dominic's restaurant in downtown RhinelanderSubmitted: 02/15/2016
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Court documents tell story of no rent payment, broken trust in eviction of Dominic's restaurant in downtown Rhinelander
RHINELANDER - At one point, Rhinelander's Michael Cinfio and Paul White, a multi-million-dollar lottery winner originally from Rhinelander, seem to have been friends. Until a few weeks ago, Cinfio operated Dominic's Italian Beef, a Rhinelander restaurant. White grew up in Rhinelander and owns the property on which the restaurant operated.

But two weeks ago, White's company evicted Cinfio and the restaurant. White says Cinfio "[has] not given me a dime" in rent or profits.

The backstory includes $149 million in lottery winnings, a friendship, and a business deal that appears to have gone wrong.

In 2013, Rhinelander was buzzing after White, a Rhinelander High School graduate now living the Twin Cities, won $149 million playing the Powerball lottery. Many people in the city were also buzzing in summer 2015 when a new restaurant, Dominic's Italian Beef, opened on Brown Street.

But following a February 1 eviction, the restaurant is closed. White's lawyers say Cinfio never paid White any rent while operating Dominic's.

Court documents show White, the new multimillionaire, bought the Brown Street property in December 2014, intending to go into the restaurant business with Cinfio. White created an entity called Mojo Holdings, LLC, which became the owner of the property. The restaurant opened in summer 2015, but White says Cinfio operated as a sole owner of the business instead of pursuing the joint venture.

"Dominic's and Cinfio took the position that Dominic's is the sole owner of the restaurant, that neither Mojo nor White has any ownership interest in the restaurant, and that Mojo is nothing more than Dominic's landlord," Mojo said in a small claims complaint.

Mojo said it has never been paid rent nor shared in the restaurant's profits.

"To date, although Dominic's has been operating a restaurant on the Premises for several months, Mojo has received no rent or any financial return on its investment in the restaurant," Mojo said in the complaint, dated December 18, 2015.

Court records show Cinfio texted White in mid-January, saying, "Plz give me a chance to make this work and make it right. Dominic's has made a great impression on the community with a giving and caring business [sic]."

White responded, "[Y]ou promised me the whole time you were going to pay me back every dime you owed me. Since you started making money you have not given me a dime. How could I possibly trust you a third time?"

On February 1, Oneida County Judge Patrick O'Melia ordered the eviction of Dominic's.

On Facebook, Cinfio promised the restaurant would be back somewhere else in Rhinelander, saying, "Just want everyone to know we are still looking forward to serving the community and the northwoods which I love so much. Nothing like a small town and the strength they give to people in need [sic]."

As of Monday, more than 70 people had responded to Cinfio's Facebook post, expressing almost unanimous support for a new Dominic's location.

White and his attorney and Cinfio and his attorney chose not to comment for this story.

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