Cotton Southern Bistro employees demanding paychecks after doors temporarily close

Posted at 11:18 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-06 06:51:49-05

Chesapeake, Va. - Several employees with Cotton Southern Bistro are worried that they will not get their paychecks and additional money that they are owed.

"I cannot live on knowing whether or not I'm getting paid," says Lahoma Dixon.

A group stood outside of the closed restaurant on Friday evening holding signs and asking for their paychecks.

They tell NewsChannel 3 that over the past few months, some of their paychecks have come late and some of their checks have bounced. While some issues were solved, some say they are still waiting on payments.

When they showed up to work on Wednesday, employees say they found a sign on the door, without any warning, stating the Chesapeake location was closed for maintenance.

"Nobody was given a notice, even today a trainee showed up, no idea that we were closed," says Jessica Miele.

"I worked over 79 and a half hours of overtime, which is almost equal to two weeks worth of pay, that I have not received still," says Dixon.

The employees say they were told to pick up their checks at the restaurant on Thursday, but that never happened.

"We get here and then we're kicked out or the cops are going to be called," says Dixon. "It's just not acceptable."

NewsChannel 3 was able to get the restaurant's owner, Jeffrey Brown, on the phone to discuss the matter.

He says the reason for the late payments and bounced checks were a combination of fraud issues, a drop in sales, and the restaurants' location - in a shopping center that is going downhill.

However, he says, he did communicate that with employees.

"You're talking to disgruntled employees that we have talked to and communicated with," says Brown. "They weren't showing up to work, and it was "I don't care attitude," so we just had to put the brakes on it."

Brown says the restaurant is undergoing renovations and he hopes to be back open on February 14th. He would not say if all employees are getting their jobs back, but he says he does want to retrain his staff, especially his cooks, and change the way things work there.

Additionally, he says he promises to get everyone paid.

"We're going to get everybody paid," he says. "There is nobody that's more upset about this situation than I am, that's doing something about it more than I am, because this is my baby."

NewsChannel 3 reached out to an investigator with the Department of Labor who confirmed that he is doing a compliance inspection. Brown says he has met with that investigator and is working on what they discussed.