Although Pacific Time was initially well received by critics and named one of the Best New Restaurants of 2008 by Esquire magazine, the acclaim didnt last and none of the other three restaurants really took off. The downfall began in summer 2010 with the closing of the new Pacific Time.
In retrospect, industry watchers say its hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong for Eismann, once considered such a bright star in Miamis restaurant industry.
With his restaurant closing on the beach, he just was not able to have that same lightning in the bottle in the Design District as he did on Lincoln Road, said Lee Schrager, founder of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and a vice president at Southern Wine & Spirits.
Rumored plans of a joint venture between Eismann and his former boss, China Grill owner Jeffrey Chodorow, never came to fruition. Within a matter of six to eight months after the Pacific Time closing, Eismanns vision of a Design District restaurant empire was dead. All three restaurants closed with the end coming in February 2011 when Eismann gave the Pizza Volante space back to his landlord, DACRA.
He tried to do too much too quickly, said Craig Robins, the owner of DACRA, who credited Eismann with acting honorably in getting out of the lease. The burden of trying to make several businesses succeed at the same time and the combination of a downward spiraling economy were devastating.
Eismann certainly wasnt the only one in the restaurant industry who suffered amid the recession. Recent years have seen many once-prominent names including Allen Susser, Norman Van Aken and Mark Militello shutter their flagship restaurants.
Before the recent accident it seemed as things might be looking up for Eismann. In 2011, he paid back about $12,500 in debts owed to Sysco Food Services of South Florida, the supplier that won two court judgments against Eismanns companies in 2010.
Just last month, he narrowly avoided foreclosure on his Venetian Islands home, when neighbors Jeffrey and Teri Krasnoff purchased the house for $3.2 million. That allowed Eismann to satisfy the $1.47 million judgment obtained against him in July by his lender, Bank United, and still have cash left. Eismann and his family remain in the six-bedroom, six-bath waterfront mansion.
Eismann was focusing on a new career as a real estate agent, which he started in March 2011, shortly after the restaurant closures.
The former chefs industry knowledge was an invaluable asset to Aniece Meinhold and her partners, who opened The Federal Food Drink & Provisions in January and Acme Bakery & Coffee last month. Eismann served as both their broker and an unofficial advisor.
He was a great resource, Meinhold said.
He wasnt out to just make the deal. He saw in us what he saw in himself when he was 30 years old and starting out in the industry. He helped us make a lot of good decisions and had our back on a lot of things. Jonathan is like family now.
Those who know Eismann say the recent events are out of character for the family man who volunteered regularly at his childrens schools and had no previous criminal record.
Eismann does have a history of recurrent traffic problems 11 citations in Miami-Dade County over the past decade. Theyre fairly routine violations such as careless driving, failure to stop at a light and following too closely. And in most cases he was either found not guilty or the charges were disposed of with minimal fines.