After a week of protests and testimony before the Houston City Council, former El Real Tex-Mex Cafe servers who say that they’re missing paychecks in the aftermath of the restaurant’s sudden shutter finally received those payments today.
El Real owner Bryan Caswell issued a statement on Friday morning saying that all employees will be able to pick up their final checks at Reef, Caswell’s Midtown seafood restaurant, or receive them via mail. Caswell also says that he has offered “a few positions” at Reef to former El Real employees. “I hope all the El Real staff knows that I’m incredibly grateful for their support and loyalty over the years, and for their patience throughout what has been a difficult week for all,” Caswell said in the statement. “I wish them the best in their endeavors and hope they know they can always come back to me should they need a referral.”
Also in that statement, Caswell claims that there are “factual inaccuracies circulating in the news” around El Real’s closure and alleged payment issues, some of which he describes as “legally defamatory.” Eater has reached out to Caswell’s representative for clarification on what those “inaccuracies” might be, and will update this post if the chef responds.
In the days following El Real’s closure, former employees who alleged that their paychecks had bounced or been late multiple times over the past few months took to the streets in front of their former workplace and Reef to protest with signs that read “We Need Our Paychecks.” On Wednesday, former employee Evelyn Barrios addressed the Houston City Council, spurring mayor Sylvester Turner to say that he would look into “mediating” the issue with Caswell.
As those employees awaited their final paychecks, a GoFundMe fundraiser organized by the Houston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America raised more than $6,500 in financial assistance for those workers. Those funds include two donations of more than $2,000 each from what appears to be the owners of Jimmy Changas and Gringo’s Tex-Mex, per the GoFundMe page.
Late Friday afternoon, a DSA organizer working with the El Real employees told Eater that the workers were able to pick up and cash their paychecks.
Update, 4:44 p.m.: This post has been updated to reflect a statement from a DSA organizer indicating that the workers were paid.