The abrupt closure of REV’S restaurant in Clovis has left a bad taste in the mouths of several of its servers who say they are owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages, tips and overtime.
Records with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office show that since Sept. 4, one day after employees got a text message that REV’S was closing, four employees filed claims with the state alleging they are owed money.
The claims add up to nearly $8,000. And more claims are expected.
Cooper Couchman worked there about two years and said he is owed about $400 to $500 in tips and at least $200 in regular salary. He said he is preparing to file his complaint with the commissioner’s office.
“That’s money that I earned and that I wish I had in my pocket right now,” Couchman said. “But they never gave us our last paycheck and all the tips we earned. That isn’t right.”
Frank Polizzi, a spokesman for the California Department of Industrial Relations, said the Labor Commissioner’s Office has opened a field investigation and is reviewing the last three years of payroll records. Depending on what investigators find, the review could result in citations.
“If they are reducing paychecks that is against the law and if they are taking tips that is also against the law,” Polizzi said. “Wage theft is a crime.”
Servers said Brian and Renee Velasquez oversaw the daily operations at the restaurant and are responsible for its problems.
Renee Velasquez declined to comment specifically about the allegations, other than to say she and her husband are not the restaurant’s owners.
Records with the Secretary of State’s office show that REV’S is a limited liability company with Theodore and Lilly Bond of Clovis listed as officers of the company. The Bonds are Renee Velasquez’s parents.
Servers speak out
Servers allege that the Velasquezes shortchanged worker’s checks, withheld tips, and used intimidation tactics to keep people from complaining or quitting.
Amanda McKee was among those who was initially reluctant to say anything about her paychecks being short.
When times were good, McKee said top servers could earn up to $400 a night in tips on the weekends. But, she said, she also had to deal with her paychecks bouncing or waiting weeks, sometimes months for her tip money. Quitting, however, wasn’t easy.
“If they thought you were going to leave they would try and intimidate you by saying that you couldn’t get a job anywhere else because they know everyone in the industry,” McKee said.
Last year, she eventually quit, submitting her letter of resignation in an email.
“I was so terrified to walk into that restaurant anymore,” McKee said.
McKee said she is owed about $2,000 and is hiring a lawyer to help collect what she is owed.
Kayla Clark, who worked at REV’S for about a year, also has filed a claim with the Labor Commissioner Office. She is owed $2,300 in unpaid wages and tips. But she said she would rather write it off as a loss rather than deal with the Velasquezes again.
“It would be nice if I could get my money, as a single mom I could really use it,” she said. “But leaving that place was the best thing I ever did.”