Local News

Employees: Defunct Raleigh eatery owes unpaid wages

Posted October 13, 2008 11:54 p.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2008 9:10 a.m. EDT

— A battle is brewing between the owners of an upscale Raleigh eatery and their former employees. Prime Only Steakhouse & Sushi Bar, 505 W. Jones Street, closed unexpectedly earlier this month.

Employees say the owners are refusing to pay them money they are owed.

A Prime Only owner says the bad economy forced the restaurant to shut down.

"I was disappointed, not necessarily the fact that it closed and I wouldn't be able to get another job, but because I wasn't compensated for multiple times that I worked,” former Prime Only bartender Kristen Stoneman said.

Stoneman says her last two pay checks bounced and she is owed $300.

"I have $30,000 in school loans. I just graduated, so I picked up two extra jobs on top of my full-time job to pay for those loans,” Stoneman said.

Former workers say collectively they are owed as much as $6,000.

"We did our job. We performed our task, therefore, we should be compensated for it, and by law you are supposed to be,” former Prime Only employee Dennis Carter said.

Carter says he sent a text message to the majority owner of the corporation, Richard Bryant, asking for the more than $800 he says he is owed.

The text he got back read: "U will get it as we wrap up biz...Call off the news media."

Bryant's attorney told WRAL News Monday evening that there was no money left in the corporation.

The Secretary of State's office lists the business as Prime Only Steak, Seafood & Sushi Bar, LLC. It lists a James Soules at the restaurant's address as the registered agent for the company, but does not list shareholders. A restaurant Web site listed Soules as the executive chef of Prime Only.

Many valuables inside the leased building were reportedly recently stolen. Raleigh police are investigating the burglary claim.

“I just hoped that they are fair to everybody and that they pay everybody the money they deserve. We obviously worked hard and made the restaurant work for as long as it did,” Stoneman said.

Bryant still runs another business in downtown Raleigh. Because Prime Only was operated by a separate corporation, his attorney said, he is not personally liable for any of the money owed and has no intentions of paying it. It is not unusual for corporations to be set up to own businesses and to separate the business's assets from the individuals.