Today’s Food Newsbits: Cipriani Sued For Labor Violations, Bayless Eateries Issued Meat Violation, A Look At Tavern’s Tumble

cipriani42Following in a long list of notable restaurants sued for labor violations, the famed Cipriani is the latest to become ensnared. A lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of past and current servers and bartenders alleges that the Cipriani restaurant group withheld tips intended for workers and shaved time from paychecks. According to lawyers representing the workers, the lawsuit is intended to recover “misappropriated service charges, misappropriated gratuities, and unpaid minimum wages.”

Attorney Joseph A. Fitapelli stated, “Patrons at catered events often believe that their gratuities go to the wait staff that serve them. Unfortunately, at Cipriani catered events, this is not the case. We hope that this lawsuit will force Cipriani to change its policies and practices and pay its workers what they have earned.”

The Cipriani group, which includes New York’s Harry Cipriani, Cipriani Wall Street, and Cipriani 42nd Street among others, is only the most recent to be questioned in violation disputes. Chef Tom Colicchio’s Craft Worldwide Holdings, and a handful of other well-known restaurants, were sued in 2008 for similar infractions.

Chef Rick Bayless was none too happy to receive a recent visit from state health inspectors. According to, Bayless’s Chicago restaurants – Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco – were all inspected for meat products not certified by the state of Illinois, after a recent article in the Chicago Reader that Bayless was one of a handful of local restaurants utilizing items from “an underground charcuterie”.

Unfortunately for the chef, it turns out the article was correct, with inspectors finding 80 pounds of bacon lacking state-certified inspection marks within the restaurant kitchens, as well as items approved by the state of Wisconsin. With state law requiring that all meat products be certified by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bayless will receive a fine for the violation, ranging from $500 to $5000.

It’s been a bit sad to watch the fall of the Tavern on the Green empire. The struggling New York eatery has had a difficult time staying afloat since the death of Warner LeRoy in 2001. Over the last few years, the family has had to sell ownership of the Russian Tea Room, close a short-lived expansion in Florida, and most recently, stay afloat amid bankruptcy and the loss of the facilitator license for its flagship New York location.

With a pending auction of many of the eatery’s memorable possessions – in an effort to recover funds for looming bills and IOU’s – Crain’s New York takes a look at Jennifer LeRoy, the youngest member of the LeRoy family and CEO of the failing restaurant empire.

~Jennifer Heigl

**Photo courtesy of Cipriani 42nd Street.