Kim Bartmann has repaid employees who were laid off from her Minneapolis restaurants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some workers are still organizing to demand changes.
About 20 workers and supporters on Wednesday delivered a petition and letter to Barbette, Bartmann’s flagship restaurant, with a list of demands including payment of PTO and earned sick and safe time balances, damages, severance pay for employees who choose not to return to work and a new, cooperative ownership model for those who do.
“We can’t go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working,” said Naomi Hornstein, who previously worked as a server at Pat’s Tap. “This crisis is exacerbating the issues that have always existed.”
Reached by phone Wednesday, Bartmann said she couldn’t comment on the workers’ demands because none of them were brought to her directly, though she noted that Minneapolis businesses are not required to pay earned sick and safe time balances to workers who’ve been laid off.
Bartmann said she still owes some overtime pay, and has the money in place to pay it.
“I wish there was some acknowledgment that what happened with my business has happened all across the country, in literally thousands of small businesses,” she said.
Bartmann closed her restaurants — which include Pat’s Tap, Tiny Diner, Gigi’s Cafe, Red Stag Supperclub, Book Club and Trapeze — and laid off her employees the week of March 16 in response to COVID-19. Days later, employees learned that their paychecks for time worked March 9-15 would not be available.
In e-mails to employees, Bartmann said she was seeking investors and applying for government loans. On Wednesday, Bartmann said she was able to find outside money to cover payroll, but declined to elaborate.
The Attorney General’s office launched an investigation into the Bartmann restaurants in late March, following reports of unpaid wages. Deputy Chief of Staff John Stiles said Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing, and declined to comment further.
Barbette has remained open for takeout business, and Bread & Pickle, a concession stand at Lake Harriet, has opened for the season. Tiny Diner was open for takeout until it was vandalized, Bartmann said.
Allison Hosman, who worked at four Bartmann restaurants over about three years, said she won’t be returning to her old job. Having to wait more than a month for her last paycheck “was really the final straw for me,” she said.
Evan Remmel, who worked at two Bartmann restaurants for six years, said he wants to see how she responds to the petition before deciding whether he could work for her again.
“If we can come back into an environment that is safe and respectful and values us and takes our opinions into consideration with the moves the company makes, I’d be happy to return,” Remmel said.