Chanting slogans of "Pay now" and "Workers want their wages today," approximately 25 protesters held a demonstration last night in front of Corner Table; they claim that chef Bruce Molzan still has not paid employees the full wages they earned when they worked at his previous restaurant Ruggles. Spokesperson Laura Perez-Boston, executive director of the Fe y Justicia Worker Center, described the dispute as "wage theft" and said it is rampant in the restaurant, construction and domestic fields. Workers, she said, "have a basic right to be paid for all hours worked." She added that restaurant workers are particularly vulnerable, because employers only required to pay tipped employees $2.13 per hour. The group is lobby Houston City Council and Mayor Annise Parker to adopt city ordinances that would withhold permits from business owners who owe their workers money.
For its part, employees at Corner Table seemed confused by the disturbance. "We have no reason to be ugly to them, but it has nothing to do with Corner Table," spokesperson Leslie Bennett said. She continued "the waitstaff here are very happy" and pointed out that they include several former Ruggles employees. Molzan is the chef at Corner Table, but owner Darla Lexington is responsible for paying employees.
The restaurant attempted, either as a gesture of hospitality or a joke, to send pizza to the protesters, but that only angered the group. Press critic Katharine Shilcutt reported that the group began chanting "No food; pay me!"
Inside Corner Table, all was calm. A large shuttle bus blocked the windows to shield diners' views of the protest. Despite the chanting, all that could be heard inside was soft music and the typical hum of conversation. The group dispersed quietly shortly after 7:00 p.m. Two Houston Police Department patrol cars remained at the scene, but nothing about the activity merited their intervention.
Eater Houston has reached out to Molzan's attorneys through the restaurant's PR firm. If they provide a statement, we'll update the post.
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