Unpaid employees told to 'be patient' L. B. Griller's owner promises to pay


The owner of L. B. Griller's, a fast-food restaurant in Gle Burnie that closed in January, said all former employees will get back wages owed them, but they have to be patient.

"All the people will be paid, I guarantee it," said Lawrence A. Barto. Employees at three former restaurants, including Glen Burnie, are owed money, he said.

Glen Burnie employees have demanded the two- to three-weeks' pay they never received before the restaurant on Aquahart Road closed suddenly Jan. 17. Employees said they were mailed letters several days later stating that they would receive their back pay in installments starting in February.

"First it was February, then it was March," said former manager Marvin Davis, who said he has yet to see a dime of the $1,200 owed him. His wife, who also worked for the company, is owed almost $2,000.

To step up pressure against the company, several employees are organizing a protest on Mother's Day outside the only L. B. Griller's still open, at North Plaza Mall in Baltimore County.

But Mr. Barto said such action is not necessary. Employees have not been paid to date, he said, because the North Plaza restaurant has not generated the profit he had hoped.

"We kept the one restaurant open -- the store with the highest sales -- in the hope we could pay the employees out of any profits," he said.

Since the restaurant has not generated enough income, he has filed for Chapter 7 protection under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which allows him to liquidate all of the chain's property.

Mr. Barto said he plans to pay the 18 Glen Burnie employees, as well as those from the Frederick and Hagerstown restaurants, from the proceeds. The Baltimore County restaurant will remain open for the time being, he said.

Although he did not know the total amount owed to all employees or the amount expected to be made from the sale, he said his lawyer has advised him that the proceeds will exceed wages owed. His attorney also assured him, he said, that employees would be paid back wages first, before other creditors are paid.

Cumberland Restaurant Corp., which owned L. B. Griller's, has had financial troubles since 1990, when sales lagged due to the recession.

The company, which was formed in 1978, originally owned and ran five Rax Restaurant franchises in Maryland, which generated profits until 1989. But after profits declined, Rax pulled corporate support from the franchises, U.S. Bankruptcy Court records show.

Mr. Barto bought the business in December 1990 and launched a campaign to save it, pumping in $60,000. But in December 1991, Cumberland filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, listing assets of $104,759 and debts of $533,148, including unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service and the state.

In May 1992, Cumberland ended its franchise agreements with Rax. Mr. Barto changed the restaurants' name to L. B. Griller's.

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