Here's What Happened With Sarma Melngailis's Pure Food and Wine Restaurant
The downfall of celebrity restaurateur Sarma Melngailis is the subject of Netflix’s latest documentary, “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.” The four-part series explores how Melngailis went from owning popular restaurant Pure Food and Wine to becoming a runaway fugitive.
Pure Food and Wine opened in 2004 and was one of New York’s first raw-food restaurants. It was highly frequented by celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Owen Wilson. However, after Melngailis stole millions of dollars from the restaurant and failed to pay her employees on multiple occasions, the staff walked out, and the restaurant eventually closed in 2015.
After a year on the run, Melngailis was arrested in 2016 – along with her husband, Anthony Strangis – for unpaid-wage lawsuits and stealing from restaurant investors. Melngailis pleaded guilty for stealing $1 million from the eatery but claimed she only did so because Strangis made her believe that he could expand her food empire and make her beloved dog immortal. So, what happened to Pure Food and Wine?
Well, former employees initially tried to reopen the restaurant without Melngailis, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The restaurant has remained closed ever since; however, Melngailis is open to reviving it. “If there was some magical opportunity to open the same restaurant in the same place, I would do it in a heartbeat,” she told the New York Post in 2019 after serving time at Rikers. “I think New York would take me back.”
“Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.” premieres on Netflix on March 16.