Pure Food & Wine employees suing over unpaid wages

Workers rally in front of their workplace last week.

Workers rally in front of their workplace last week.

By Sabina Mollot

It’s the mystery of the disappearing restaurant owner.

The owner of Pure Food & Wine, an upscale vegan restaurant on Irving Place, as well as two local juice bars, has been stiffing her employees for nearly a month, employees said, and on top of that — she can’t be reached by anyone.

The restaurant’s owner and founder, Sarma Melngaillis, has been out of town, supposedly traveling for business. Employees also said last week they haven’t had any contact from anyone from management. That would be an LLC owned by China Grill Management as well as shareholders.

Melngaillis also didn’t respond to T&V’s emailed requests for comment. Calls to the various business locations (including the juice bars, one in Gramercy, the other in Chelsea), went unanswered due to no one staffing the places.

“The owner has not communicated with anyone,” said Allie Coltelli, a line cook. “They’re ghosts. It’s very suspicious.”

Last week, Coltelli, along with one of her coworkers, hired an attorney, and on Tuesday, he filed a lawsuit.

Employees have been told they’re finally getting paid this week, but Coltelli doubts it.

“I’m 99 percent certain that’s not going to happen.”

Additionally, along with wages — which were last paid in late December with checks that bounced — tips for the servers have also not been paid. Tips are pooled and paid evenly to front-house employees with each two-week pay-cycle. The company’s bills have also not been paid nor has the rent, and Coltelli said she heard the restaurant “may be shuttered as early as this week.”

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