Federal court orders Fishtown bar, bottle shop to pay nearly $520K in back wages, damages, penalties after US Labor Department investigation
PHILADELPHIA – The operator of a popular Fishtown bar and bottle shop that prides itself on offering Philadelphia’s largest selection of beer and wine appeared to be less focused on paying its bartenders and servers as the law requires, a federal investigation found and a consent judgement entered in a U.S. District Court confirmed.
U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigators found that BHMK Enterprises LLC – operator of Bottle Bar East – violated the minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The division determined the employer failed to pay bartenders and servers any cash wages, causing them to work for tips only, and required workers to attend quarterly staff cleaning meetings, but did not pay front-of-house employees for the time they spent there. These actions violated the FLSA minimum wage requirements.
In addition, investigators found Bottle Bar East paid back-of-house employees straight-time wages for all the hours that they worked, including those in excess of 40 hours worked in a single workweek. The law requires overtime pay for hours employees work beyond 40 in a workweek. The employer also failed to pay overtime to front-of-house servers and bartenders. After the investigation, the department filed a complaint against the company in court to resolve the violations.
“Restaurant workers are among the most vulnerable in the service industries,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jim Cain in Philadelphia. “Like all workers, they deserve to be paid every penny they have earned. The Wage and Hour Division will continue to hold employers accountable. Other employers should use the outcome of this investigation, and this lawsuit, as an opportunity to review their own pay practices to make sure they comply with the law, and avoid costly violations like those in this case.”
The Department of Labor filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania in April 2020, alleging that Bottle Bar East and its owners willfully violated the minimum wage overtime provisions of the FLSA through their unlawful pay practices. After months of litigation, the parties resolved this matter when Defendants agreed to pay the full amount of back wages, an equal amount of liquidated damages, and civil money penalties. On August 31, the Hon. Berle Schiller entered a consent judgment ordering BHMK Enterprises LLC to pay $246,457.99 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 73 bartenders, servers, cooks, and dishwashers. The court also ordered the employer to pay $25,729 in civil money penalties for the willful nature of the violations.
“Bottle Bar East stole wages from its workers, harming them and their families and gaining an unfair advantage over employers who play by the rules,” said Regional Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III in Philadelphia. “The U.S. Department of Labor will enforce the law to recover hard-earned wages for workers and to ensure a level playing field for law-abiding business owners.”
Bottle Bar East also failed to maintain payroll records for servers and bartenders and had incomplete records for the back-of-house cooks and dishwashers, and did not display the FLSA required poster.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.