Customers rally to Mac and Bob's defense

The popular Salem restaurant faces a class action lawsuit, bankruptcy

SALEM, Va. – Customers of a popular Salem restaurant are rallying to its defense after a lawsuit prompted the business to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Mac and Bob's announced the move this week in response to a class action lawsuit a former employee brought against the restaurant.

"It's like you're messing with somebody's family," said Dave Sampson, a regular customer at Mac and Bob's. "It just hurts. It's just bothersome that somebody would do that and I know I'm not the only one that feels that way."

The lawsuit stems from a tip-sharing practice the restaurant ended in July. Under the policy, servers had to tip the restaurant's dishwashers 1 percent of their sales. In a video posted online, Bob Rotanz, one of the restaurant's owners, said he didn't know that policy was illegal until a former employee sued the restaurant earlier this year.

"Decades ago, I decided to have our servers tip our dishwashers instead of the host staff," Rotanz said in the online video. "In our view, the dishwasher has the most difficult job in the restaurant."

The employee won the case, and then a second employee brought this most recent class action lawsuit against Mac and Bob's.

Rotanz said this has prompted the restaurant to take further action.

"We have decided to file Chapter 11 for protection but we will not be closing," Rotanz said. "It means all 100 of our hardworking employees still have their jobs while we go through this legal process."
Customers 10 News talked with said Mac and Bob's has been a staple of the community for nearly 40 years, and they'll do whatever they can to support the restaurant.

"They stand beside people thick or thin," Sampson said. "They're the most outgoing and welcoming people I've ever met and for them to do something wrong to somebody, it's unthinkable. I know it would never happen."

The attorneys out of Fort Worth, Texas and Charlottesville who filed the lawsuit declined to comment. 

Rotanz said this legal battle could cost the restaurant well over $800,000 if more employees join the lawsuit, but they don't plan to settle it because they can't afford that.

An online GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the restaurant's legal defense had raised more than $90,000 by Thursday night.

"I got faith in humanity and I think the good guys win, they really do," Sampson said. 

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