British Columbia

Owner of shuttered pub owes thousands in wages, tips, staff say

Half a dozen former employees of Brew Street Craft and Kitchen, in Port Moody, have gone to the Employment Standards Branch in a bid to get unpaid wages from the operator of the now-defunct pub.

Ex-employees sound alarm for other young workers over broken promises

The Ministry of Labour says its Employment Standards Branch is investigating several claims of unpaid wages from staff at the now-closed Brew Street Craft Kitchen in Port Moody, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In March 2018, Sydney Iverson was excited to start work at Brew Street Craft and Kitchen, in Port Moody, B.C. Within a matter of months, Iverson moved up from server to manager to general manager.

But by last summer, she sensed something was wrong.

For one, Iverson, 20, wasn't being paid on time — if at all.

She claims pay cheques bounced at least five times and she's owed $4,600 by David James, who is listed as company president of Brew Street, according to the company's last filed corporate records.

Iverson and two other former employees allege Brew Street owes them more than $6,800 in unpaid wages and tips. 

They say they're speaking out because they're concerned other workers could easily undergo the same ordeal.

The restaurant has since closed. The Ministry of Labour told CBC its Employment Standards Branch is investigating several claims of unpaid wages.

Sydney Iverson, left, and Jaden Rudland allege they are owed wages and tips for shifts at Brew Street Craft Kitchen in Port Moody. (Daniel Beauparlant/CBC)

'Every time it's another excuse'

Iverson says the money owed is for wages, tips and charges she was asked to make on her personal credit card on the restaurant's behalf. 

For example, if the restaurant ran out of a product, she would be asked to go to a grocery store, make the purchase and put it on her card, Iverson said. 

Iverson says on New Year's Eve 2018 she was told her credit card was needed for a cheese run. The bill was $152.   

"Every time it's another excuse," she said, recounting attempts to recoup her money. 

She says James has responded to her requests with texts such as " I'll always take care of you. I don't have the money. Sorry, I can't pay you. I don't have the money to even put gas in my car."

Former Brew Street staff say they are owed more than $6,800 in unpaid wages and tips. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Iverson worked at Brew Street until it closed in January 2019, then transferred briefly to another eatery operated by James called Craft and Cork Kitchen and Taps in Coquitlam, B.C.

CBC made multiple attempts to contact David James. Initially, he left a telephone voice message that said, "if you can give me a call back, I don't mind talking at all." 

James subsequently responded to CBC via email, indicating the restaurant would be repaying all the employees in full. 

"Brew Street has made arrangements with the Employment Standards Branch and individuals to pay the remaining outstanding fully on June 4th," James wrote. 

Investigation underway 

Under Ministry of Labour legislation, which regulates employment standards in B.C., officers and directors of companies can be personally liable to pay up to two months wages to former employees.

The Employment Standards Branch says it received roughly half a dozen complaints about Brew Street between December 2018 and April 2019.

"The investigation will continue until the complaints are resolved voluntarily (paid in full) or through a decision issued by the Branch," said a ministry spokesperson. 

Tori Stone says there were always excuses, like problems with banking or accounting, for why she wasn't paid for shifts at Brew Street Craft and Kitchen. (Daniel Beauparlant/CBC)

Jaden Rudland, 19, worked in Brew Street's kitchen. Rudland alleges he's owed $700 in unpaid wages and charges for bounced cheques, and has filed a claim with the Employment Standards Branch.

"We put so much hours in and then you just treat us like this?"  he said. "It's a smack to the face."

Tori Stone, 22, a server at Brew Street, estimates she's owed up to $2,000 in unpaid wages and tips. Stone plans to file a claim with the Employment Standards Branch.

"People shouldn't have to fight for their money, she said. "You have a right to be paid." 

 

Warning to others 

Iverson fears she's missed the window of time in which to complain to the Employment Standards Branch. She believes her only option may be to fight for her money in Small Claims B.C.

The three friends feel their experience is a "heads up to other young people starting off their first jobs." 

"Look out for this because it happens a lot, not just with us," said Rudland. 

"You've got to learn when to put your foot down." 

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