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What's Going On at Pure Food & Wine, Where Staff Remains Unpaid and Owner Is MIA

A server dishes more details on the ongoing strike at the Union Square vegan restaurant.

Nick Solares

Pure Food & Wine, the popular raw/vegan restaurant in Union Square, has been closed since the beginning of the week, after the entire staff walked out in protest of unpaid wages. Now the restaurant is surrounded by picketing staff (or at least their signs), with no resolution in sight. On Tuesday, an employee told Eater, "No one has been paid in over a month, the management has promised to pay everyone on Thursday." Now one server, Gabrielle Badawy, dishes on all the dirty (and sometimes murky) details over on Grub Street.

First of all, Badawy says, the last check anyone got was supposed to cover December 26 and the two weeks before that. She was asked not to cash it until this past Monday, but at that point other staff were already complaining of either having checks bounce or of not getting them at all. No one, apparently, has gotten paid for anything after December 26. Employees haven't even taken home any tips, because that money is pooled and included in paychecks.

Meanwhile, owner Sarma Melngailis is MIA. She's traveling in Europe, "apparently on business," and "hasn't been around for months." She's provided no explanation to the staff, except to send an email to the managers with a "super half-hearted" explanation, blaming the situation on changing banks.

Besides walking out, the staff have also hired a lawyer to write a letter to Melngailis with all their demands. But even after all this, Melngailis insists no one has anything against the restaurant itself: "I feel like if it were plausible that we could take over the restaurant and run it, people would be gung-ho about that."

Pure Food and Wine

54 Irving Pl, New York, NY 10003 (212) 477-1010 Visit Website