Home Wine Kitchen and Table Face Lawsuit from Former Employees

Categories: Restaurant News

joshcassy.jpg
       Josh Renbarger and Cassy Vires at Home Wine Kitchen. | Jennifer Silverberg

Two former employees of Table and Home Wine Kitchen have filed a lawsuit against owners Cassy Vires and Josh Renbarger, the husband-and-wife team who own both restaurants. Christina Renick and Davina Hernandez are alleging illegal tip pooling which cost them wages.

See also: Cassy Vires, RFT's Best Chef Winner, on Foam, Fried Chicken and Her Killer Pastry Chef

The suit alleges that Vires and Renbarger "have required their tipped employees to participate in unlawful tip pooling practices whereby the tipped employees are required to share their tips with the managers and kitchen staff of the restaurant."

Tip pools are not uncommon -- servers, who obviously receive their tips directly from the customer will share a portion with other employees, like bussers and hostesses, who come into contact with customers but don't usually get a tip. Tips often allow businesses to pay less than the standard minimum wage (currently $7.50 in Missouri) because employees' income is supplemented.

Though kitchen staff and others don't usually participate in tip pools, it is legal as long as everyone is making minimum wage. The suit also alleges that tips were shared with managers, whom it defines as "employers."

Vires herself tells Gut Check that Table and Home Wine Kitchen do use tip pooling, but she and Renbarger don't get a share of employees' tips. "I think we pay a very fair salary and hourly rate to our employees," she says. "I would hate people to think we pay minimum wage or less than minimum wage."

According to court documents, Renick was a server at Home Wine Kitchen from November 2012 to January 2014; Hernandez was a server at both Home Wine Kitchen and Table from June 2013 to January 2014. Vires wouldn't comment on why the two left her employment.

Neither would the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Russ Riggins, but he says, "They felt their rights were violated. It doesn't have anything to do with their termination."

They're also aiming to turn this into a class-action suit by acting on behalf of the other employees at the two restaurants. Renick and Hernandez are seeking back pay, compensatory and liquid damages, attorneys' fees, and any pre- and post-judgement interest allowed by law.

When we spoke to Vires, she and Renbarger had yet to be contacted by Riggins or received any summons. We chose Vires as our best local chef of 2013 and both restaurants have received rave reviews. Vires says the lawsuit will not affect operations in any way.

Read the full suit below.

Renick & Hernandez vs. Vires & Renbarger

Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at nancy.stiles@riverfronttimes.com or follow her on Twitter.




Location Info

Table

1821 Cherokee St., St. Louis, MO

Category: Restaurant

Home Wine Kitchen

7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood, MO

Category: Restaurant


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14 comments
Terry Frigerio
Terry Frigerio

when my daughter in law start agreeing with each other look out

Margaret Lamprich Metzing
Margaret Lamprich Metzing

I have never worked in a restaurant where the back of the house or management was part of the tip share. I, after finding out that's how things were done here, would have not worked there. I don't know why you'd stay there, if you weren't making enough money and didn't agree with these practices. I don't necessarily agree with this business practice but I wouldn't have stayed to get angry about it. There are tons of other restaurants to work in.

Rachel Porche
Rachel Porche

We tip pool here in Seattle but also make min wages... I think cooks work their asses off and make little $. I never mind tipping the cooks. They deserve a hell of a lot more...

Devon L Johnson
Devon L Johnson

Fact is most employers do whatever they want until they are caught .

Devon L Johnson
Devon L Johnson

Wait so they do all the work and carry food and clean tables apologize for the cooks errors and tolerate rude people and get about $3 an hour salary as opposed to other staff who get min wage or more and when they sue for unethical practices thats unfair?

Brian Flowers
Brian Flowers

....or maybe, just maybe the servers are upset because of the termination and do what most Americans do best: bluff with phony lawsuits.

Kyle DB
Kyle DB

Lawsuits for everybody!!! I hope they lose. Just somebody lookin for a payday excuse.

Eddie Neill
Eddie Neill

Good lawsuit. Tips should not be used to supplement pay for kitchen and management. We use tip pooling at the cafe solely for direct service personnel, i.e. Servers, bussers and bartenders.

Jillybean10
Jillybean10

People need to stop suing over everything... If you don't like something, communicate about it at the time or find a different job.

Stu Katz
Stu Katz

Cheap bastards. Busboys should get 10% of waitstaff tips,but the managers, cooks and bartenders....no way.

Adam Usher
Adam Usher

Bullshit lawsuit. Hope they loose. I remember when I was a bus boy (long time ago), I would work my ass off for some of the waiters and waitresses and they didn't give me anything. Even though they we're suppose to per management. Glad I don't work in food services any longer.

Anon
Anon

And what if said employer also happens to work as a waiter/busser on occasion? Mr. Renbarger has often played both roles when I've been there.

k3vb0t
k3vb0t

Seriously? You're opposed to tipping out the people who actually MAKE the food and drinks in a timely manner so that guests receive the service they deserve and expect, and ultimately tip for? I would hate to work for you...

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