Past Rails Craft Brew & Eatery operator charged with corrupt business influence

The former operator of a downtown Seymour eatery was arrested Wednesday on five charges, including committing corrupt business influence, police report.

David W. Lawrence, 58, of Louisville, Kentucky, also faces charges of theft, check deception, check fraud and causing neglect of dependents, Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Reserve Officer Scott Davis said.

The charges stem from an investigation into Lawrence’s business practices involving Rails Craft Brew & Eatery at 114 St. Louis Ave., Davis said. Lawrence opened Rails in the spring of 2015. He later opened other Rails restaurants in Clarksville, Fishers and West Palm Beach, Florida.

That investigation began after Tom Goecker, owner of the building where Rails is located, took over the business in December and discovered irregularities involving checks, Davis said.

Goecker said Lawrence has not had anything to do with the business since before Thanksgiving.

“We’re still open, and we look forward to the future,” Goecker said of the Seymour restaurant.

The future includes the 40 or so current employees at Rails, including manager Jeff Rosbottom.

“We’ve been talking with Jeff and are looking to make some improvements,” Goecker said.

That includes installing all new kitchen equipment to reduce wait times — something that has been a problem since the restaurant opened, he said.

There also are some changes to the menu being planned for early March, Goecker said.

“We have a great restaurant that we are going to keep open to benefit the downtown,” he said.

During the investigation, Davis said it was determined Lawrence had written several checks to employees and other business associates knowing that, at the time, those checks would not be honored by his bank.

Lawrence also wrote checks to the Indiana State Central Collection Unit for child support payments that were no longer being honored because too many of the checks were being returned by the bank for insufficient funds, Davis said.

That money, which totaled more than $3,000, was for child support that was being withheld from employees at Rails, he said.

It is believed Lawrence used the money to pay for other business expenses and ventures for a Rails restaurant he used to own in Clarksville and another restaurant under construction on North Chestnut Street in Seymour, Davis said.

Lawrence was arrested at that restaurant, Bella Vita, on Wednesday afternoon and booked into the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown at 6:06 p.m.

Davis said Lawrence said he was no longer involved in Rails or Bella Vita.

Lawrence was being held without bond pending his initial hearing in Jackson Circuit Court.

The corrupt business influence charge is a Level 5 felony, punishable by one to six years in prison upon conviction. The other charges are Level 6 felonies.