Employees say Prime 6 is already behind on paychecks

Prime 6's David Koch denies employees' complaints are valid, though he admits he does not handle payroll.

Prime 6's David Koch denies employees' complaints are valid, though he admits he does not handle payroll.

Two employees of Prime 6, a downtown restaurant that opened earlier this month, say the business already owes them hundreds of dollars in back pay. 

They also claim the restaurant's first few weeks have been chaotic, and that they're not the only ones owed money.

Jacob Boston and Cyla Amundson were both hired in mid-January, as Prime 6 prepared to open its doors in the former Rosa Mexicano space on Hennepin Avenue. Boston has years of experience as a server, and Amundson has worked as a hostess in several restaurants, including some that were just opening for business. 

Both Boston and Amundson say they completed the restaurant's mandatory training sessions in the run-up to Prime 6's opening night, which happened to fall on February 3, the Friday before the Super Bowl.

"They really wanted to be open for the Super Bowl," Amundson recalls.

Boston says he was scheduled and arrived for work that first night, only to be told that there were already too many servers present. He was sent home without working. Both Boston and Amundson say scheduling at the restaurant has remained unpredictable, and is arranged through a Facebook group rather than more sophisticated scheduling systems used in other establishments. 

Boston says he worked that first Saturday -- "it was fine, kind of slow, but I had a couple tables" -- while Amundson worked both Saturday and Sunday. Since then, she says she's hosted four more nights.

"I knew it was a new concept restaurant, and not going to have as much business," she says. "Plus, it's right across from Fogo [de Chao]. But the place was just crickets. It didn’t have to open for Super Bowl weekend. Since they’ve opened, it’s been pretty slow."

So far, Boston's Super Bowl eve shift was his only work for Prime 6. He believes he is still technically employed by the restaurant -- "I haven't been fired by anyone," he says -- but has bigger concerns about his employments. Boston says he did not receive a paycheck for his 20 hours of training, nor for two "cleaning sessions" he worked, or his one shift on the restaurant floor. 

He estimated he's owed an amount approaching $200. When, a few days ago, Boston texted a manager there to say he hadn't been paid yet, he says he received a thumbs-up symbol in response.

"I don't quite understand what that means," he told City Pages.

Boston is not sure if he'll work another shift at Prime 6, but says he's already found other work. He's disappointed. He wanted to work at Prime 6, where the quality and presentation of food was excellent. Plus, it was expensive: Several entrees sell for upward of $30, and a tomahawk steak goes for $120.

"I can’t imagine it’d be a bad place to work as a server," he says. "It seemed like it would be the optimal place, except for how things have gone."

Amundson says she's owed even more, and expected her hours during the past month would finally be reflected in a paycheck she received on Friday. Instead, she says she was paid for just eight hours of training -- less than half the 20-hour total, to say nothing of the shifts she worked hosting, which she estimates add up to 25 hours or more of unpaid work.

She says she's aware of other staffers whose paychecks are either late or incomplete, and that the group has reached out to the state Department of Labor and Industry for assistance claiming their money.

"I have a child, and all of us have things to do with the money we work for," says Amundson, who adds she might contact an attorney about the situation. "You're not going to not pay me." 

A phone call to Prime 6 Monday evening was answered by a manager, who said flatly, "Everybody's checks are here," before referring the call to David Koch, an ownership partner in Prime 6.

Koch is the former owner of Seven Steakhouse and Sushi in downtown Minneapolis. In 2016, business partners in Seven sued Koch, claiming he'd treated the business as a "personal piggy bank," and obtained a restraining order that barred him from the restaurant. Koch denied those accusations. The ownership group sold Seven later that year.

Koch refuted any claims of payroll issues at Prime 6, while also saying he doesn't "deal with [payroll]," and that the company has a "gentleman who handles payroll." (Koch referred City Pages to the person he says is responsible for issuing checks; a message left at that number was not returned.) 

"I would first of all check your sources," said Koch. "Because everybody that I know, or that I’ve heard, has been paid. I don’t know who hasn’t been paid. There are people, as you know, in this industry, where, when they don’t keep a job aren't able to stay with a company start using social media as an outlet, and create made-up stories." 

Koch has his own personal experience with Facebook fights.

Koch says the first two weeks of operation at Prime 6 have gone "very well," and points to positive feedback on social media, where he says service has been "met with nothing but praise, except for some things you can read into right away."

Koch says he's "elated" by the restaurant's opening, and thinks some people people are prone to "exaggerate" because they are "a little jealous" of its early success. 

"I don't know of anybody who's had any problems," repeated Koch, who says he was given a "nominal" ownership stake for his consulting work. "I get a paycheck just like everybody else."