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Here to Serve employees still unpaid, Atlanta restaurant industry steps up with plans for aid

ajc.com

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

On Mon., Oct. 5, employees of Here to Serve Restaurant were stunned to learn that the restaurant group had shut down its 10 Atlanta restaurants and that they were without jobs. These are the same employees who had been awaiting late paychecks from the company.

Here to Serve Restaurant owner and CEO Leigh Catherall had reassured her employees in an email sent Fri., Oct. 2 that they would be issued the following Monday. That did not happen. Then, employees expected to receive checks by 3 p.m. today, Wed., Oct. 7.

“People showed up at the restaurants and there were no paychecks,” said David Abes, former longtime director of operations for Here to Serve and current director of operations for LDV Hospitality.

Here to Serve employees have sought Abes’ help because they have found no answers from Leigh Catherall nor from Here to Serve current director of operations Phil Haley. Catherall has not responded to repeat phone calls, emails or text messages from the AJC. Haley responded to a text message on Tuesday with the comment, “I may have contributions to something moving forward in a day or so but now I am simply trying to help staff as much as possible.” On Wednesday, Haley stayed silent, not responding to requests for an interview.

Who is helping the nearly 1,000 affected Here to Serve employees that find themselves without a job and a source of income? An earlier AJC article incorrectly credited Here to Serve with having created a Facebook page of job listings for its waylaid employees. Today, the AJC learned that the page was created by a former Here to Serve employee who has not worked for the company for many years. The page has been populated with dozens upon dozens of job opportunities at other Atlanta-area restaurants.

More aid is on the way, according to Abes, who stated that two local nonprofit organizations are stepping in to lend a hand. The Giving Kitchen , a nonprofit that provides emergency assistance grants to those in the restaurant community who face hardship, is setting up an account on its website for Here to Serve employees in need of monetary assistance. Applicants will be able to complete the grant application online. The Giving Kitchen executive editor Stephanie Galer outlined the organization's plan to assist Here to Serve employees in a letter posted on her organization's Facebook page.

Plans are also in the works for a food drive that will be spearheaded by Atlanta Community Food Bank in coordination with area restaurants and bars. Groceries collected will be dispersed to needy Here to Serve employees. Details of the food drive will be announced as soon as they become available.

Editor's note: This post was updated Oct. 8 at 11:24 a.m. with information about a letter from The Giving Kitchen's Stephanie Galer.

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