Gay popular and bear brunch spot Roxx has failed to pay nearly three-dozen employees about $10,000 in back pay despite a months-long investigation that found the eatery violated federal labor law and failed to pay some servers and bartenders correct overtime wages.
More troubling is that the restaurant and owner, Dean Chronopoulos, agreed to the findings of the investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor and agreed to pay the employees but failed to do so months later, according to documents provided to Project Q Atlanta. Former employees of the restaurant tell Project Q that Chronopoulos still hasn't paid them the back wages, despite the longtime restaurant owner telling us that he did.
In May 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor concluded its investigation into the restaurant and found that during a two-year period from February 2012 to February 2014, Roxx failed to pay $9,920.89 in overtime wages to 33 employees. Chronopoulos agreed to pay those back wages by May 14, 2014, according to the letter from the labor department.
But on Sept. 17 – more than four months after the deadline – the labor department warned Chronopoulos that he hasn't yet paid the employees as he agreed to do.
“Roxx Tavern & Diner has not completed the payment as agreed. By this point you should have provided evidence of payment for all employees you have paid, and provided a Net check for the total amount unpaid to employees you were unable to locate. In the absence of evidence of payment we are forced to assume that those employees have not been paid.”
The notice added that Chronopoulos now faced interest and penalties for the delinquent payments.
A month later, on Oct. 23, the agency warned Chronopoulos that his non-payment of the overtime wages was being bumped up to its regional office for collections. In addition, the matter could be turned over to debt collectors, credit reporting agencies and the U.S. Department of Justice.
On Wednesday, Chronopoulos insisted that the overtime pay issue was a miscalculation and had been resolved. But in an interview with Project Q, he couldn't specify when the issue was corrected until he was told by a reporter the date of the investigation.
“The overtime pay was a miscalculation on our part. We did pay them overtime, we just didn't pay them enough overtime,” Chronopoulos said. “And we resolved that whole issue.”
When asked if the restaurant has paid the $9,920.89 in back wages to the 33 employees – as Chronopoulos agreed to do in May 2014 – he said it had.
“That has been resolved,” he said.
But when asked why former employees of the restaurant said this week they still haven't been paid the back wages, Chronopoulos added that the restaurant may not have gotten to all 33 employees included in the labor department investigation – 19 months after the investigation was completed and he agreed to do so.
“We try to pay everybody. There may be some that we haven't gotten to. We have tried to give everybody their money. If they didn't get it, they are welcome to come by and get a check,” Chronopoulos said.
Chronopoulos also could not say how much of the nearly $10,000 in back wages has been paid to the employees.
“That was an honest and unintentional miscalculation on our part. We apologize for it and it has been corrected since 2014 on and there is no longer any issue on that,” he added.
'It's real scum bag stuff'
But at least two former employees who are among the 33 cited in the labor department report said Chronopoulos has not paid them.
“I kept going to my managers and saying that you are scheduling me 60 hours a week but you won't pay me for it,” said Scott Daniels, a bartender at Roxx from February 2011 to August 2014.
He said he eventually confronted Chronopoulos about the issue and that the owner refused to pay him the correct wage – until the labor department initiated its investigation.
“They came to an agreement with Roxx the he would pay us all back to avoid interest and penalties and fines and he never did,” Daniels said. “It's ridiculous. He told the labor department that he is guilty.”
Daniels said he enjoyed bartending and building a customer base and that the tips kept him working there, despite the restaurant failing to resolve the overtime issue. He accused Chronopoulos of trimming the overtime pay knowing that his employees wouldn't quit and leave behind the generous tip money they earned.
“It was a good job. I built my business up and it was a good and he knew I wasn't going to leave my job because of that wage and he used that to his advantage,” Daniels said.
Daniels said the restaurant cheated hard-working employees who helped build up the eatery and develop its loyal LGBT customer base.
“Not only did we cater to a gay clientele, we were known as cheers for queers. That's what made it so popular. We've been cheated. We all knew he was doing this. I just got fed up. We turned his business around,” Daniels said.
Daniels also alleged that the restaurant forced employees to train new hires and attend training sessions without pay as well as required them to work through breaks but log on their time card that they weren't on the clock. Chronopoulos denied that and the labor department “did not substantiate allegations that employees were docked pay for breaks they weren't allowed to take or for uncompensated training time,” according to the investigative findings.
“I loved my job there, that's why I stayed. My clients were everything to me. It doesn't have to be that way. It's real scum bag stuff,” Daniels said.
Demetria Scott, a server at Roxx between 2010 and 2014, said her checks didn't include overtime pay either. She's one of the 33 employees due back wages but said Chronopoulos still hasn't paid her.
“Dean said it was an accounting error and would give it back to us in another check and it was never done,” Scott said. “We made very good money tip wise, so many of us felt trapped.”
Scott also alleged that if she arrived early for a shift, the restaurant expected her to work but would not allow her to clock in and be paid for it. She also said Roxx did not pay minimum wage for training sessions she was required to attend.
“They didn't appreciate our hard work. I didn't feel appreciated anymore and I quit,” Scott said. “It's very unfortunate we had to do this. It's made a lot of good employees leave because of his practices. We liked working with each other but working with him is very, very difficult.”
Last month, BJ Roosters – a gay bar not far from Roxx on Cheshire Bridge Road – lost a federal lawsuit over back wages and unpaid overtime. A judge ordered the business to pay a former bartender nearly $70,000. A second case against the bar is pending.
In 2013, Roxx failed a health inspection and engaged in health score shenanigans before recovering with a re-inspection score of 90. In 2014, the restaurant scored a 79 but upped it to 90 a few weeks later. In July, Ross passed its health inspection with a 92.