Foyer owner Daniel Lacombe is unphased by grievances that he and partner Richard Holder withheld pay from staff over the holidays. "Everyone is going to get their 4% vacation pay. The money has already been deposited." Some members of Foyer’s staff are not eligible for dismissal pay, however, claimed Lacombe today. "They walked out. They just quit."
Lacombe, the owner of M sur Masson, Eco-Logixx, a restaurant supply company, and the Arsenal art gallery, expressed shock today at allegations that employees and suppliers had been frozen out. "Me and Richard Holder put up $330,000 to $350,000 to build this restaurant. We wanted it to be a quiet, family restaurant, not like a Joe Beef or Club Chasse et Pêche. No tattooed chefs, nothing trendy. The custom pipes for the pizza oven cost $11,000 alone. We put together what we thought was a strong team. I have nothing bad to say about the service or the food that we served. Our reviews have been good. But our labour costs were out of control."
"We’re in the red over $40,000 now."
Lacombe said that in November Foyer experienced a drop in business. The restaurant started bleeding "between $2,500 and $3,500 a week." "We’re in the red over $40,000 now. The big problem is that our combined food and labour costs reached 137% by December. Our labour costs alone were 70%." Lacombe asserted that it was a minority partner's responsiblity to control costs and manage the day-to-day. "I like Tina An. She is—or was—my wife’s friend. But the situation got out of control. For four weeks I asked her to fix the staff cost situation. When you have 25 customers you don’t need three people on the floor and three in the kitchen, with your dishwasher. At M sur Masson we do 150 to 200 covers with three people in the kitchen."
An made an offer to purchase the restaurant in December, alleged Lacombe. "It was half of what we think the business is worth." An has so far declined to comment on the matter, due to legal proceedings. When asked to remark on the rumour that one supplier, Lucille’s, was owed a significant sum of money, Lacombe was adamant that the matter would soon be settled.
"We owe Lucille's $4,200."
"We owe Lucille's $4,200. We’re going to meet with them next week, on Monday or Tuesday, and resolve the situation." Lacombe and Holder now plan to re-open Foyer on January 20 with staff from M sur Masson and a pizzaiolo from Tomato but will sell the restaurant if "we find a good offer." "You have to understand that I opened the restaurant for my wife [Marie-Christine Couture]. To get her out of the house and give her something to do. I don't need it. I don't need the hassle. I have other businesses in Montreal, in New York, all over. It’s funny that I’ve become the bad guy in all this. You know that at Arsenal, I subsidize artists? Give them materials, a place to stay and work. Just ask Marc Séguin!"
“This so-called man, Daniel Lacombe, ruined the holidays of many employees.”
More sources, however, have emerged to dispute Lacombe’s presumed innocence in the Foyer debacle. "This so-called man, Daniel Lacombe, ruined the holidays of many employees. I used to be part of an amazing team with the kitchen and with the front of the house. After all the hard work we have put in the food, these two men [Holder and Lacombe] take advantage of us by not paying our one week notice, our holiday pay, and our statutory pay."
"While these men are driving around in their fancy cars, we are all running around looking for new jobs."
"While these men are driving around in their fancy cars, we are all running around looking for a new job. And what better time of the year than now. Everybody knows that restaurants slow down during the winter. How is it possible for us to find work now? Especially with the minimal heads-up he gave us. Daniel has been lying through his teeth."
"No employer, no matter who you are, should be able to take advantage of other people. That is how I feel. Everybody needs to pay their rent, or their mortgage. In the case of Foyer, how will we be able to pay when the employer doesn't want to give us our money? Everybody deserves the right to know what these two men are capable of doing. No one deserves this. This is not the first time I have worked with ‘crooks’. We have too much of this in Montreal. This has to stop."
"The fact that I have to run around for my money, makes me sick."
And then there is this: "It’s really not fair to us as employees to go through this. When I called Daniel to inquire about my 4% he told me it wasn't his problem. The fact that I have to run around for my money, when I was there every day and night, working to make this guy money, makes me sick. To leave people out of a job at this time of year to line his own pockets is so wrong."
One former employee put it more succinctly: "Go sell your Porsche and pay your dishwasher."