Pure Food and Wine workers rally for missing pay – again

Workers lined up outside the restaurant last Thursday, saying they’re missing back pay while the owner is nowhere to be found. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Workers lined up outside the restaurant last Thursday, saying they’re missing back pay while the owner is nowhere to be found. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Pure Food and Wine owner Sarma Melngailis has mastered the art of “ghosting.”

The slang term has come to refer to one half of a romantic couple that breaks off the relationship by disappearing with no explanation, turning into a “ghost.” But while the practice is seen as rude and disrespectful in those cases, in Melngailis’s case it includes alleged wage theft.

The owner of the raw food restaurant on Irving Place vanished once before, with employees saying that she had not paid them for almost a month at the beginning of the year. Employees said at the time that no one had been able to contact Melngailis and when workers held a rally outside the restaurant last Thursday with some not being paid for the last two weeks, the owner and raw food mogul was similarly missing. Bartender and representative for the employees’ newly-formed union Kevin Woods said on Monday that she hasn’t even been in touch with her lawyer recently.

Town & Village reported at the beginning of the year that workers at the restaurant sued Melngailis because of the missed wages in January but this is actually the third time the restaurant has missed payroll. Woods said that the first time was during a month last summer but none of the workers went public with the information at that point. Bartender Daniel Schubmehl said they had communication from Melngailis that it was a bank issue and were assured it would be fine. Gothamist noted that the employees ended up being paid gradually from the restaurant’s petty cash and there were no more payroll problems until the issues in the winter.

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