DES MOINES, Iowa — The COVID-19 pandemic is giving most restaurants a future of uncertainty.
For a few days, BAH Brazilian Steakhouse in Des Moines attempted to fulfill to-go orders. “That’s just really upsetting. Times are already tough enough right now,” said bartender Liz Luebbert, who had been working at BAH since last October.
The Ingersoll Avenue restaurant’s employees say their owners, Fabricio Floriani and his wife Monique, used the fear that the virus has created to bail on them and their last paycheck. “I really enjoyed working there and I feel like he may as well have just spit in my face,” said Luebbert.
Less than two years after BAH’s grand opening, employees say they weren’t told of the closing with a face-to-face conversation. They were sent the news in an email on payday on March 26. The email said, “Due to the coronavirus pandemic situation BAH has closed down its operations and unfortunately won’t be able to pay last payroll. We understand this is a hard situation for everyone and apologize. Best regards BAH Brazilian Steakhouse LLC.”
“He definitely doesn’t have any compassion or care for the people that worked so hard for him even after he stopped coming into the restaurant,” said Kim Keenan, another employee at BAH. Keenan worked for BAH within the first few weeks of the opening until the closure and says this payroll issue isn’t new. “There’s another team member, his last check bounced and he still hasn’t been paid for that, so he’s gone a month without income,” Keenan said.
Calls and social media messages from employees to the owners for their money are being ignored. Luebbert said, “They deleted all the social media, blocked employees on social media. No calls or messages are getting answered, so it is really hurtful from someone I thought cared about us more.”
The Iowa Division of Labor encourages anyone who feels their employer hasn’t paid them wages they are owed to file a claim. Many of BAH’s former employees already have. Luebbert said, “Seeing as I don’t have a job now and I’m still waiting on unemployment, being without a paycheck right now, this is the worst time it could have ever happened.”
Seemingly left high and dry, these employees are still choosing to take the high road. “How you treat people is a character and reflection of yourself and what goes around comes around,” Keenan said.
Calls to BAH’s owners from Channel 13 went unanswered.