Yaletown’s Subeez shuttered suddenly earlier this month, and over the past few days, the staff have been struggling to reach the restaurant’s owner, since many are owed back pay.
Subeez, which opened in 1994, has had a rough few months lately, under the ownership of Ali Beacharanloo, who took over the restaurant about three years ago. Things finally came to a stand-still on June 5, when workers arrived to discover the doors were locked and a note was on the door that Subeez was closed for maintenance.
Three days later a new notice posted on the door told a different story: It was a “Distress Warrant” indicating that over $70,000 in rent was unpaid.
That day, server Jeremy Kulyk went on social media to share his experience of being left out in the cold, financially speaking. Kulyk said Beacharanloo “apparently is not going to pay [the Subeez staff], not to mention [their] pay checks have started to bounce.”
We spoke to Kulyk by phone on June 15 to find out more about his experience. To date, Kulyk indicates he has not had contact with Beacharanloo since the restaurant had closed down, and explains their last interaction was challenging.
Kulyk remarks that the past few months had been difficult at the restaurant, mostly because of lack of product, specifically food and liquor. In the last couple of weeks, according to Kulyk, Beacharanloo had brought on a new manager and floor leader. “He seemed to really want to change what was happening with the company,” Kulyk says of his former boss, “but it was still really rocky.”
To elaborate on what was rocky, Kulyk describes having to go back a dozen times to a table of men there for a Stag party to tell them something they had ordered wasn’t available. There were also some staff who were forced to take on every aspect of service for tables, from taking orders to making drinks to not only serving the food but also heading into the kitchen to cook it themselves.
“There were shifts when I couldn’t sell anything [on the menu] with chicken in it,” explains Kulyk, pointing to how lack of product made his job increasingly difficult.
This “make-shifting” on the job was making it hard for Kulyk and his fellow servers to meet the needs of their customers, who were often vocal about their displeasure at the food and experience at Subeez, and wrote it off as “bad service.”
Kulyk says that the financial problems seemed to take root in February, when he and the staff were made to sign a “contract” that permitted Becharanloo to make deductions from their paycheques for 30-minute breaks, regardless of if they took them. Kulyk says their employer refused to provide them with copies of the contracts they had signed, many signing under a sense of pressure to do or face losing their jobs.
Still, cheques to the employees were beginning to bounce, and while tips for regular service were still being distributed by floor managers to servers, the kitchen staff were not being paid out their portion of tips, Kulyk says, and for special events, like restaurant-wide parties and events, Beacharanloo was only paying out a portion of the gratuities the servers were due.
Beacharanloo was also neglecting to pay other bills. We spoke with a former marketer who had been contracted for a year of work with Subeez, who said a few months in Becharanloo stopped paying the monthly fee, and when he got about three or four months behind, the marketer sent the debt to collections. All told, the marketer is owed $14,000 from Subeez.
Kulyk, meanwhile, focused on securing himself another job, since he realized the situation at Subeez was not likely to improve. He indicates that the paycheques for May 30 were not issued, and on June 1 he confronted Beacharanloo. The employer “yelled at” Kulyk, and “pointed his finger” in the server’s face, with what Kulyk says was a “how dare you?” attitude, and a claim Becharanloo was “doing the best he could.”
Four days later, the doors were locked.
A former Subeez manager who had long taken on the role of being a sort of staff advocate for ensuring payments were issued allegedly contacted some staff on June 14 indicating Becharanloo was going to meet with them in the next couple of days to arrange payment.
Kulyk says he has not been contacted to make those plans to meet.
While Kulyk says he cannot speak in any regard to the matter of unpaid rent, he is in regular contact with many of his fellow Subeez waitstaff, who are owed hundreds, perhaps thousands, in back pay. He estimates there are about seven kitchen employees and 10 to 15 front-of-house staff who have been left in the lurch, and while some are giving Becharanloo the benefit of the doubt, “everyone is upset,” adds Kulyk.
Kulyk, and others, are seeking legal counsel. “At the end of the day we all just want our money.”
We have attempted to reach Beacharanloo for commentary.