Food News

River Yacht Club Sued by Employees for Tip Pooling and Reducing Wages

River Yacht Club
River Yacht Club Photo by Paul Stoppi
click to enlarge River Yacht Club - PHOTO BY PAUL STOPPI
River Yacht Club
Photo by Paul Stoppi
A dozen former employees of River Yacht Club are suing the now-shuttered restaurant over improperly shorting them on tips.

The 20-page complaint was filed November 3 in Miami-Dade Circuit Court against restaurant owner CG RYC LLC; CG Miami River LLC; Food and Leverage LLC; and managing members Stephane Dupoux and Meyer Chetrit.

It claims the tony restaurant violated federal laws by creating a "tip pool" and improperly steered proceeds from the pool to managers and other nontipped employees. It also alleges that employees' hourly wages were reduced to below minimum wage. Ultimately, the complaint alleges, all tip-based compensation was stopped. The plaintiffs are seeking an unnamed amount of compensation for damages.

The 12 plaintiffs — Nancy Bodan, Richard Dalley, Jennefer DelRosario, Andreeas Farkas, Ovidiu Garbacea, Paola Guardiola, Filip Isakov, Aleksandar Lalic, Aleksandar Majstorovic, George Serban,
Milena Sutakovic, and Silviana Trifan — were bussers and servers working under the classification as "tipped employees," making $5.50 an hour. The complaint alleges the "River Yacht Club required the Plaintiffs to participate in a tip pool and to share the tips and gratuities that River Yacht Club collected from its patrons as service charges."

Additionally, in June 2017, "River Yacht Club held a meeting and informed the Plaintiffs that their hourly wages would be retroactively reduced from $5.50 an hour to $3.50 an hour for the three-week period that preceded the meeting." The pay decrease was applied retroactively, according to the complaint.

Their attorney, Robert Zarco, of the law firm Zarco Einhorn Salkowski & Brito, P.A., said in a statement: “Like many restaurant workers, the plaintiffs rely on these tips as a significant share and portion of their paycheck. The restaurant owners saw the tips instead as a pool from which they could improperly compensate others and fund their own obligations. While it's customary practice for certain restaurant employees to receive a share of their compensation from tips, the defendants steered significant portions of the tips due to the plaintiffs to others not permitted to share in such tip pools and deliberately kept the plaintiffs in the dark about the tips they were actually due."

Lowell Kuvin, the attorney representing River Yacht Club, tells New Times the same lawsuit was filed earlier this year in federal court and was dismissed with prejudice. "This is a group of people who believe they were not properly paid, and basically they're wrong," Kuvin says.

River Yacht Club opened in 2016 and was touted as an opulent waterfront dining venue. It was named "Best Restaurant for Out-of-Towners" in 2017 by New Times. In September 2017, the restaurant, along with the eatery Dashi, closed; management issued the following statement:
Due to serious damage incurred from the effects of Hurricane Irma, River Yacht Club and Dashi on the Miami River will be temporarily closed. Ensuring the safety of its guests and employees is of the utmost importance to ownership, and plans are in place to begin work as soon as possible. During the closure, the restaurant will undergo major repairs with a to-be-announced date of grand reopening.
River Yacht Club. 401 SW Third Ave., Miami; 305-200-5716;
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss