Five former employees of the long-popular Angelina’s Restaurant in Española filed complaints Tuesday with the state Department of Workforce Solutions alleging they are owed $12,000 for work prior to the restaurant’s closing in November.

Staff also allege they purchased ingredients for the business out of their own pockets while their paychecks bounced.

Enrique Moreno, who said he was an employee at Angelina’s for 25 years, alleges he is owed $1,680 for 105 hours.

“It’s really hard to find work as a cook with most restaurants closed right now,” Moreno said in Spanish. “I’m three months late on my rent and worried my son and I are going to get evicted.”

Also filing complaints were Alejandra Fuentes, Simona de la Garza, Estela Holguina and Ricardo Villarreal.

The restaurant’s owner has said landlord Katharine Cook Fishman locked the business’s doors in November when the restaurant fell three months behind on rent.

A bill of sale shows Fidel Gutierrez, who opened the restaurant over 35 years ago, sold his 50 percent stake to his son, Zev Gutierrez, in December 2019. Jeremy Gutierrez, Fidel Gutierrez’s grandson and Zev Gutierrez’s nephew, owns the other 50 percent.

Zev Gutierrez said there is between $250,000 and $300,000 in equipment inside the business, which could be sold to pay back rent, wages to former employees and other debts during a bankruptcy or liquidation process.

Jeremy Gutierrez has not called for an emergency board meeting to settle the matter and to ratify his part ownership, Zev Gutierrez said.

Jeremy Gutierrez did not respond to calls for comment on the workers’ wage complaint or his uncle’s claims.

“What is really frustrating is that we could have settled this matter in November or December,” Zev Gutierrez said. “We owe a lot of people money, and we’re not opening back up.”

Angelina’s received a $112,560 pandemic-related loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, and, according to the city of Española, a $7,500 federal CARES Act grant.

Elsa Lopez, a community organizer with the nonprofit Somos un Pueblo Unido, which helped organize the workers’ wage complaints, said pandemic relief should include more direct support for workers.

“Everybody is having a hard time in the middle of the pandemic, and we will continue to hear a message of ‘Let’s help businesses to ensure economy continues,’ ” Lopez said. “We must be clear that workers sustain those businesses.”

Popular in the Community