Lulav Restaurant Under New Ownership

The Little Rock restaurant Lulav, which in February rechristened itself as the Italian Kitchen at Lulav, apparently also has a new owner, Burch Wilson of Little Rock.

Well-known Little Rock chef Donnie Ferneau is acting as a consultant to Wilson.

The previous owner, J. Matt Lile III, is facing legal trouble. Lile, who also was the former president of Cosmopolitan Life Insurance Co. of Little Rock, was indicted by a federal grand jury in April on two counts of embezzlement.

The charges stemmed from accusations that Lile used his position with Cosmopolitan and his related position as chairman of Advanced Insurance Brokerage of America Inc. to charge more than $300,000 in personal expenses to a company credit card over a three-year period. The expenses were ultimately paid by Cosmopolitan and AIBA, which managed self-insured health care plans for small businesses around the state.

Lile's trial is scheduled to start Nov. 12 before U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright.

A source confirmed the ownership change to Arkansas Business, and Wilson lists himself as owner of Lulav on his Facebook page.

A message to Wilson wasn't immediately returned, nor were calls to Lulav. Lile's lawyer, Keith Byron Hall of Little Rock, also did not immediately return a phone call.

Lulav opened in 2004 at 220 W. Sixth St. in downtown Little Rock. It started as a kosher restaurant, morphed into one serving a varied American menu and then, in February, switched to Italian fare.