Back in 2016, Todd Hall said, he did some plumbing work for Sam Gardian, who was preparing Southern Smoke BBQ & Brewhouse in Newhall for opening. Hall said he installed the plumbing, the gas line, the water line and the water heater, and he used his contacts to expedite some processes with the city and utilities.
He’s still waiting to be paid, about $25,000 in his estimate.
Hall made his displeasure known on Facebook, where on Jan. 10 he posted the following: “Sam Gardian who owns Southern Smoke in Newhall is a deadbeat who owes me 25k, Beware!”
Hall, owner of Hallway Plumbing, also posted on the SCV Rotten Businesses Facebook page: “Sam Guardian (sic) of Southern smoke BBQ hasn’t paid me or any of the other contractors who built Southern smoke. He owes me well over 25k and others equal if not more. I bent over backwards talking to the city, gas and water companies to waive fees and expedite his opening only to be met with bad checks and excuses. Beware of anyone who would treat the SCV community with such disdain. Our community is about friends and neighbors not who we can screw over to make a buck. Beware of southern smoke.”
Hall said the general contractor and the people who installed the electric wiring and the fire sprinklers also have not been paid (they couldn’t be reached), but he’s not, apparently, the only one.
Gigi Grey-Bronstrup said on Facebook that Gardian worked as a realtor and owed her construction company money a few years ago. She said she got a judgment against Gardian, who then filed for bankruptcy, “so we never got paid.”
Steve Hunt, who said he worked for Gardian when Gardian owned the car shop Nostalgic Creations in Valencia, also claims Gardian owes him about $600 in unpaid wages, which he doesn’t think he will ever see.
“I really thought he was a friend. 2 years later and he still owes me for working for him. So sad he treats people like this,” Hunt wrote on Facebook.
Reached later, Hunt explained that he thought Gardian was taking money from the shop and putting it into the restaurant, since it was clear to Hunt that Gardian’s priorities had shifted.
But Hunt still saw things he didn’t like. For example, Hunt said Todd Hall’s black Corvette, which was at the shop, “was a shambles” when Hall went to pick it up. Hall said on Facebook, “Trashed one of my Corvettes and screwed the paint up on another. Shut the doors on the shop and sold all the cars being worked on. Luckily got mine out before he sold mine.”
Hunt said actor Taylor Lautner paid Gardian $20,000 to put in a motor. “I don’t know what happened to the money,” Hunt said. “He never found the motor. I don’t know what Sam did with that money.”
Hall said he went to an attorney who said it would cost $30,000 to get his $25,000 back. He started hounding Gardian for the money, and one day was told a check was waiting for him at the restaurant.
Hall sent managing partner Cathy Hammond over there.
“I get there and he’s not there yet,” Hammond said. “When he got there, he came out of his truck with such an attitude.”
Hammond had copies of receipts to give Gardian if she got paid. Instead, she said, he started screaming at her and grabbed at the papers but grabbed her wrist instead. More screaming followed.
When she left (without money), she decided to call the police, only to find out he already had, so she went back to the restaurant. The police kept the two separated, Gardian by his restaurant, Hammond in the back of the squad car, while each gave their side of the story. Hammond said she was in the car for 45 minutes.
“He is a piece of work, that guy,” Hammond said. “That was real special.”
Not everybody has a negative opinion of Gardian. Staci Silberman Nebel wrote on the SCV Rotten Businesses Facebook page, “Omg!! I know him and have been to his place several times. He’s always so nice to me. So sad to hear all this!!!! I would of (sic) never guessed.”
Sue Bird, the chair of the Old Town Newhall Association, said she had never heard of any complaint about Gardian or Southern Smoke. Neither had TimBen Boydston, executive and artistic director of the Canyon Theatre Guild.
Others, such as Dan Carpenter, believe otherwise.
“I think 90% of the businesses don’t really deserve to be on this page but this one guy is your SCV dirty rotten business owner,” Carpenter wrote on Facebook. “This is one shady guy that everybody should be cautious doing any business with.”
Hall might not have the money owed him, but he had a lien placed on the property (which Gardian does not own), so he will eventually get his money.
Gardian, through all of this, was unable to be reached for comment. His car shop, though now closed, has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau.
In an unrelated matter, he has been accused of sexual harassment and is scheduled to go to trial later this month.