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Busy chef closes! Co-owner’s arrest led to demise

A man looks into Busy Chef on Henry Street a day after the restaurant closed abruptly on Monday night. The restaurant’s co-owner, Dan Kaufman, is facing charges that he ripped off customers’ credit cards for tens of thousands of dollars.
The Brooklyn Paper / Emily Lavin

The disgraced Busy Chef restaurant empire has closed amid a criminal investigation into former partner Dan Kaufman, who is accused of swindling $25,000 from customers’ credit card numbers.

All four adjoining restaurants — the upscale pizzeria, Oven; the Blue Pig ice cream shop; the Wine Bar at 50 Henry Street; and Busy Chef — closed on Monday night, making for a dark corner at the former foodie-destination at Henry and Cranberry streets in Brooklyn Heights.

“They closed it up at 11 — they just shut everything down and started throwing out the food,” a source said.

An e-mail to one owner, Alan Young, was not answered.

But a source familiar with the investigation said he may know why the restaurants closed: “They can’t afford to pay people — they’re not making money to pay the employees.”

Cops arrested Kaufman, 34, on July 17 and charged him with 19 counts of identity theft and grand larceny for stealing customers’ credit card numbers and pocketing nearly $25,000 since February. He was released on a $50,000 bail on July 18.

The District Attorney is expected to release an indictment this week, and cops have said that more victims have come forward.

According to the criminal complaint against Kaufman, an employee quietly began collecting evidence against his boss, who also allegedly asked employees to run charges for him — some of them fraudulent.

When an employee asked Kaufman what he was doing, he allegedly brushed off the questions and answered with “nonsensical responses,” prosecutor Wilfredo Cotto said at Kaufman’s arraignment on July 18.

Despite the allegations and wide news coverage of the so-called “Busted Chef,” customers were still stunned when the eatery closed.

“No way!” said Stephanie Wackerman, 38, of Brooklyn Heights. “I had no idea it had closed. I bring my kids here every week for a little treat. That’s such a bummer.”

Another resident was sad for the employees.

“So all three places are just closed now? That’s a shame,” said Jack Dawe, 67. “I know the owner got himself into a lot of trouble, but to just close the doors on everyone that worked there, that’s a real shame. They’re good people.”

When Busy Chef opened last spring, it quickly became popular with a growing segment of Brooklynite: the harried office worker who appreciated the shop’s prepared, single-serving dinners.

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