Veteran-owned restaurant closes; employees haven't been paid
"I can't say I'm sorry enough, and I can't say I'm sorry long enough. I know it sounds like some silly little comment but somehow in the next few years, I'll pay them all I don't know how," said David Parker, one of the owners of Sarges' Grill, after having to close both locations without paying his employees their last pay checks.
Dozens of employees are out hundreds of dollars after the restaurant they worked at suddenly closed without notice. This happened at both locations of Sarges' Grill.
The restaurant is veteran-owned and aimed at serving veterans, active duty military members, first responders and law enforcement at their locations in Fountain and Colorado Springs.
Over the weekend, customers hoping to eat at Sarges' were met with locked doors and signs saying the business had closed.
It was a surprise to regulars. Several employees told 11 News they didn't get much notice either.
"I was supposed to get paid Wednesday and [a co-worker] was supposed to get paid Thursday, but nothing," said Michael Yamoaah, a former cook at the restaurant.
Yamoaah and the former line manager, Nathan Mayfield, told 11 News the sudden closure happening so soon before rent and bills are due has left dozens of employees in a bad spot.
"He owes us each three weeks' pay. I know for me it's 120 hours, about $1,500. It doesn't seem like a lot but for people like us, we live check to check. I've got bills to pay right now," Mayfield said.
Army veteran Parker said he helped create the restaurant to serve those who have served our country. Parker believes a combination of factors contributed to the restaurants closing, including slowing sales and an increase in minimum wage.
"Over the last couple months we've just been sliding and sliding and sliding and we thought maybe it was because we had two locations, but then the slide at Fountain was so massive ... the last week we were open we slid $15,000 in sales. There was no money," said Parker.
Several employees we spoke to said working at the restaurant felt like home, but they say how the closure is playing out is hard to believe.
"Basically you knew you were going out of business, but yet you kept us working? For what? You could have given us notice and we could have been finding a new job," Yamoaah said.
"That's a real legitimate question. We believed that we still had a couple of weeks fighting left before we had to make a true, hardcore decision," said Parker of the criticism in an interview with 11 News.
Parker said that he's filed for bankruptcy and although he can't pay his employees, he encourages them to do what they can, even if it means filing wage complaints against him.
"They should do exactly whatever their rights allow them to. I told them to file for unemployment and I told them if there was any money left, it could be allocated and that's where they should come: the creditors meeting," he said.
Typically, employees who aren't receiving wages from their employers can file a complaint with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
The department notes they generally do not investigate wage disputes if an employer has declared bankruptcy, depending on when the employer filed for bankruptcy.
In the case of a bankruptcy, the Department of Labor and Employment recommends for employees to contact the state's bankruptcy court because employees could have high priority in bankruptcy to get paid back.
If you need to file a wage complaint with the Department of Labor and Employment,
For contact information for the Federal Bankruptcy Court for Colorado,
"A lot of those people broke their hearts and busted their backs for us and doing what we did was not an easy decision," Parker told 11 News.