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Siren restaurant closes, owner blames Hunter Smith

A Charlottesville restaurant is closing its doors, and its owner has laid the blame at the feet of embattled restaurateur and beermaker Hunter Smith.

Laura Fonner, owner of the Siren seafood restaurant tucked behind the Staples office supply store in the city’s Starr Hill neighborhood, took to Facebook on Wednesday to post a photo of herself, two middle fingers raised, outside the front door of Siren.


Siren was the first restaurant chef Fonner ever owned.

It opened in December of 2021 in partnership with Smith’s Champion Hospitality Group, which had once owned an empire of breweries and restaurants across the city.

Those restaurants are now closed, employees claim they have still not been paid for work performed before the doors were closed behind them, and Smith is working to prevent the company filing for bankruptcy protection.

Siren appears to be the latest casualty of Smith’s fall from grace, at least according to Fonner.

“I’m sad to hear of the closure but have no further comment,” Smith told The Daily Progress on Wednesday.

Fonner did not immediately return a request for comment from The Daily Progress on Wednesday, but said she would feel comfortable providing more detail at another time.

Fonner was more vocal in March, when she took to Facebook to accuse an unnamed "sir" of stealing from her, taking advantage of her and “preying on the working class.”

Many believed the post was referring to Smith.

“F–k you for not taking responsibility for ruining people’s lives with your poor business practices,” she wrote.

“You, Sir…..were in charge of finances for a restaurant that I personally poured my blood, sweat and tears into while renovating with my own two hands,” the post continues. “You stole a part of my soul.”

The post received more than 300 likes and 60 comments.

Smith did not return a request for comment on those allegations.

Among the Smith venues that have now closed their doors are Latin-inspired Passiflora and Franco-Belgian Brasserie Saison and its adjoining superette on the Downtown Mall, the flagship Champion brewpub by the Belmont Bridge, Champion Grill at the Shops at Stonefield, Reason Beer in Seminole Place shopping center and Champion Outpost in Lynchburg.

Fonner was given full ownership of the Siren restaurant in February.

On Siren’s Facebook page, Fonner wrote that there will be a “Buy the Bar out” benefit next week to support her staff.

“I can’t thank Charlottesville enough for their never ending support. This is not the end, just the beginning of a new chapter,” Fonner wrote.


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