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Don't Know Tavern lawsuit settled for $115K; in shocker, lawyer grabs most of it

Jason Zink has settled the lawsuit five former employees brought against him two years ago.

Under the settlement, which was filed Tuesday in federal court, Zink agrees to pay his former employees and their attorney $115,000.18. 

The payment is to be made in several installments of several thousand dollars over the next two years. 

Under the settlement, Zink and the former employees also agree to a confidentiality agreement that bars them from discussing the details of the case. The Daily Record first reported the settlement news.

Three of Zink's employees sued him in 2009 for participating in what they charged was an employee-only tip pool, one that as an owner he should not have belonged to. Two other employees, bartender Brian Emar and sous chef Astrid Garrison, later joined the suit as well.

The three original plaintiffs charged at the time they were owed $10,000 together. In March, a federal judge, Richard Bennett, ruled Zink was in violation of federal labor law by participating in the tip pool, and the two sides have been negotiating a settlement since. 

The lawsuit could have ramifications for other bars and restaurants since the labor rights of an owner who also works as an employee had not been previously addressed in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Bennett said in his March opinion. 

The settlement awards the bulk of the damages - about  $98,000 - to the employees' Silver Spring attorney, Philip Zipin, who will receive it in installments of $2,000 over the next 49 months, the agreement said. The employees are themselves getting a collective $15,000.18.

Zink's first payment to his former employees is due three days after Bennett approves the settlement. It consists of a payment of $5,000.06 to be divided between the five employees, with Emar getting the largest share. Zink's last payment is scheduled to be made this August.

Zink told the Daily Record in March the lawsuit could hurt his business. And on June 26, he served his last shift at his Don't Know Tavern after selling it for an undisclosed amount.

He has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the lawsuit or the bar's sale. 

Photo: Don't Know Tavern (600block)   

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