This story was originally published at EatABQ, the city's food, restaurant and drinks guide. EatABQ is a publication of The Paper, ABQ's new alternative, independent weekly.
The former owners of the once-popular Kelly’s Brew Pub in Nob Hill have been ordered to pay over $1.3 million in wage theft to former employees. After a hearing in the Second Judicial Court this week, Judge Benjamin Chavez approved the settlement.
The settlement comes after a ruling in 2019 that former owners violated the minimum wage law by underpaying their servers. According to Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance, employers that fail to pay the minimum wage due must pay triple the lost wages and the attorney fees for the defendants. Judge Chavez ruled that the Bonfantine family had thirty days to pay $1 million dollars of the settlement in the class-action lawsuit Atyani v. Bonfantine on behalf of servers who worked at Kelly’s between 2013 and 2016. The remaining $375,000 will be applied after the plaintiffs investigate the family’s assets.
The class-action lawsuit, brought on by 16 former employees on behalf of 150 employees, stated that the former owners of Kelly’s required servers to pay their employers cash each shift, which was calculated at two percent of their daily sales, plus another three dollars per hour that they worked per shift. This was the company’s response to a 2012 ballot passed by voters that increased the minimum wage. After making the payments from their cash, servers would often owe Kelly’s more than they had made in tips for their entire shift. If that was the case, they were required to pay Kelly’s out of their own wallets or paychecks.
“Workers have the right to a fair and legal wage. This includes people who work for tips,” said Stephanie Welch, director of workers’ rights at the Center for New Mexico Law and Poverty. “Albuquerque has a strong law that holds employers accountable, whether or not there is a pandemic. Employers should know that if they don’t pay their employees a legal wage, they can be sued and end up paying much more in damage than if they had just paid their employees fairly.”