Co-owner of Franklin Manor, other Tampa restaurants steps down after his posts spark outrage

Lanfranco Pescante announced he was leaving Nocturnal Hospitality Group, effective immediately.
Nocturnal Hospitality Group owners David Anderson and Lanfranco Pescante, right, pose for a portrait at Tampa restaurant Mole y Abuela on March 15, 2019.
Nocturnal Hospitality Group owners David Anderson and Lanfranco Pescante, right, pose for a portrait at Tampa restaurant Mole y Abuela on March 15, 2019. [ Times (2019) ]
Published June 2, 2020|Updated June 4, 2020

Editor’s note: After Nocturnal Hospitality Group co-owner Lanfranco Pescante quit Tuesday amid accusations he made racist comments on social media, celebrity chef Fabio Viviani has announced he is cutting all ties with the group and its Tampa Bay restaurants. All of those restaurants, and Nocturnal’s Franklin Manor nightclub, are now closed. Read the latest here.

The co-owner of a Tampa hospitality group that owns Franklin Manor, Mole y Abuela and Osteria Bar + Kitchen has stepped down from his role at the company after being accused of posting violent comments on social media this week.

On Tuesday, Lanfranco Pescante apologized for his actions and said he was leaving, effective immediately.

Screenshots of Pescante commenting “Just shoot them all” in reference to protesters were shared Tuesday, causing backlash across multiple social media platforms. Widely shared screenshots of text messages allegedly from Pescante included racial slurs.

The comments come amid widespread protests across the country over the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis in police custody on May 25.

On Tuesday afternoon, Karin Bearnarth, the Nocturnal Hospitality Group’s Director of Private Events and Sales, sent this statement from Pescante:

“I sincerely apologize for my comments earlier this week. This is an emotional and heated time in our country and, as someone that has tried to bring people together as a career, the last thing I wish to do is to create more divisiveness. With that said there is no excuse for my actions. Effective immediately, I will step down from my role with Nocturnal Hospitality and I will step away from all venues that I am associated with.”

The posts prompted outrage on social media throughout the day, with multiple calls for boycotts of the Nocturnal Hospitality Group bars and restaurants. The comments led to hundreds of responses, many from people who said they would never frequent Pescante’s businesses again. A protest is planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Herman Massey Park in Tampa.

“This hurts me so much to read considering so many of your customers are black and should be ashamed @nocturnalfranco,” wrote @cillaxxo on Twitter.

“Dear @NocturnalFranco: Stepping down is the first step," tweeted @DJChrisBeastly. “Never ever perpetuate racism or exploit Blacks ever again.”

“I have dined at a number of his restaurants in the past," Tampa Bay resident Christian Celaya said in an email to the Times. "Seeing what the owner thinks of these Tampa protesters (many I’m sure patronize his establishments) and a complete disregard for their lives is horrifying. I hope everyone who learns of this will make their voices heard and boycott his establishments.”

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Pescante is a co-owner and partner of Nocturnal Hospitality Group, along with celebrity chef Fabio Viviani and partner David Anderson. The restaurant group just opened Shibui, a Japanese restaurant in downtown Tampa.

Viviani issued a statement Tuesday condemning the comments and said Pescante was “no longer a part of Nocturnal (Hospitality) Group, effective immediately.”

“The whole team at Fabio Viviani Hospitality does not condone this behavior in any way, shape or form," Viviani said.

Neither Pescante nor Anderson replied to multiple requests for comment.