Lawyer denies Alpine Reata Restaurant involved in suit

ALPINE – The lawyer representing Reata Restaurants said last week that the Alpine eatery is involved in a lawsuit that recently came to light alleging its restaurants, both in Fort Worth and Alpine, made illegal deductions from employees’ wages.

But Angela Meyers of Meyers Law Group of Dallas said the Alpine location was not really involved.

Attorney Drew N. Herrmann of North Richland Hills, who filed the suit, said it involves both restaurants. Meyers said Herrmann “is seeking to involve both, but Alpine is not involved.” She said the Reata is what she called “a fabulous restaurant” and a great place to work.

Herrmann rebutted Meyers’ arguments.

“Yes, both the Alpine and Fort Worth locations subjected their servers and bartenders to the same policies at issue in this lawsuit,” he said. “In other words, Reata enforced the same policies at issue at both the Alpine and Fort Worth locations, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since both are owned and operated by the same group.”

He said any tips that Reata’s servers and bartenders earned came from customers and not from Reata’s pocket.

“Reata only paid its servers $2.13 per hour and its bartenders $5.15 per hour,” he said. “Then, as if only paying a subminimum hourly wage was not enough, Reata also required its servers and bartenders to pay for Reata’s business expenses. Reata was trying to have its cake and eat it too.”

Herrmann said federal law is very clear. “If a restaurant wants the benefit of paying a subminimum hourly wage, it can’t also share in employee’s tips or require employees to pay for its business expenses, such as check presenters, ink pens, nametags, uniforms, aprons, pen lights and wine keys.”

The suit alleges that Reata illegally retained a portion of its servers’ and bartenders’ tips by making illegal deductions from their wages, including the bar manager in the tip pool and requiring its servers to perform “side-work” in violation of federal wage laws.

And that Reata illegally allowed its bar manager to participate in the tip pool.

Finally, the suit alleges that Reata illegally required its servers to perform side-work at the subminimum server wage of $2.13 per hour. That server wage, far below the minimum wage, presumes it will be supplemented with tips.

Meyers said she has filed an answer to the lawsuit and a motion to dismiss and all of her comments to us are included in her motion.

“We have servers making over $50,000 a year and bartenders over $70,000,” she said. “They have benefits, health and dental. We love our employees and try to keep them happy.

“We have an arbitration and dispute resolution program when they join the team,” Meyers said. “If they have concerns, we can work together to find an agreement.

“We are very much a team,” she said, and some past employees were “devastated” when they heard about the lawsuit.