Kip Kouri, founder of Tell All Your Friends PR, is one of the most familiar and well-liked faces on the New York indie-rock circuit, repping everyone from Yoko Ono to Les Savy Fav to Guided By Voices to white-hot duo Sylvan Esso.
But a recent visit to Eataly, Mario Batali's food emporium in New York's Gramercy Park, ended in a violent altercation with the wait staff, leaving Kouri in stitches after allegedly being thrown through a plate glass window by a security guard. Kouri declined public comment while he sought legal counsel, but clients like Frenchkiss Records' Syd Butler and Miniature Tigers began tweeting in Kouri's defense, suggesting the incident was a hate crime and that a security guard used homophobic slurs against Kouri.
What actually occurred, however, is currently under legal investigation. In a lengthy statement to Billboard, Eataly spokeswoman Cristina Villa says, "While we are really sorry for Mr. Kouri injuries, as in any other service business, our staff has the duty and obligation to maintain our premises safe and orderly for all the other guests -- especially if a customer is visibly intoxicated and acting as a potential threat to others. As shown in our security cameras footage and as witnessed by many guests, after Mr. Kouri approached our hostess in a very aggressive manner and argued at length with our staff, using hostile gestures and disrespectful language, our security guards had to intervene to preserve everybody's safety.
"From our security cameras," Villa continues, "it's clear that Mr. Kouri's friends were also trying to escort him out, and, after many attempts, we called the police and our security guards had to forcefully remove him from the store. While doing so, the whole group banged into the glass window, which crashed, injuring all involved, including our guards. A police report was filed right after the accident."
Villa also disputes the use of homophobic slurs by Eataly staff, noting that the security guard who ultimately escorted Kouri off the premises was a woman, and adding, "nobody on our staff would ever use that word."
Kouri declined comment, but deferred to his lawyer Richard Klass, who responded to Billboard in a statement: "Mr. Kouri vehemently denies the allegations made in the statement of Eataly's representative. Mr. Kouri was at Eataly with his stepmother, sister and boyfriend, and a disagreement arose concerning the mishandling by Eataly of Mr. Kouri's reservation. Mr. Kouri proceeded to leave the store after being harassed by Eataly's staff, including being called homophobic slurs and enduring the staff's homophobic hand gestures at him.
"As Mr. Kouri was exiting," Klass continued, "three security guards became physical and began to push Mr. Kouri, his stepmother and sister, all the while calling him names. The security guards then tackled Mr. Kouri and threw him through a glass door, causing him to sustain serious injuries. Footage from Eataly's security cameras were reviewed by the New York City Police Department and the investigation of the matter is pending."