Houston's popular Midtown restaurant Taste Bar and Kitchen employees struggling to receive payment

Mycah Hatfield Image
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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In addition to being sued by investors of both of his Houston restaurants, Houston Chef Don Bowie's employees said they are having trouble getting paid.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In addition to several lawsuits, employees said they are having trouble getting paid by a popular Houston chef.

Chef Don Bowie is being sued by the investors of his Houston restaurants: Taste Bar and Kitchen and Rare Steakhouse.

His partners, including a Dallas attorney, Texans legends Andre Johnson, and singer and songwriter Akon, allege the hundreds of thousands of dollars they invested and subsequent profits are gone. Bowie denies the allegations in court filings.

Bowie is also wrapped up in lawsuits with the landlord of his Midtown restaurant, who is trying to evict him for non-payment of rent. Bowie claims he did pay, and there is a dispute over the lease.

A former employee, who chose to remain anonymous for safety, said she had been to the restaurant several times before working there and raved about the food and atmosphere.

"People get straight off the plane and come to Taste Bar," the employee said. "That's the type of culture. On any given day, seven days a week, there will be a wait, ranging from maybe one hour to three hours on a Saturday or Sunday."

This woman only worked there for two weeks as a hostess before quitting. She was supposed to get her first and only paycheck on Friday.

RELATED: Houston chef sued by partners, including Andre Johnson and Akon

She said they were not ready until late that night, so she picked it up on Saturday. When she took it to the bank to cash it, it bounced. She took it back to the bank Monday morning to try again, and it bounced again.

"I'm single," the woman said. "I'm a single mother with five children, making $13 as a hostess."

The former employee returned to the restaurant Tuesday to get a new check, but before she could cash it, she said she got a call from Bowie, who said he would send her the money via Zelle instead.

"To me, that means the one I have in my purse is not going to work either," she said. "Who Zelle's their employee's payroll? Who does that?"

While speaking with ABC13, the transfer did go through the woman's account.

She does not understand the issues with employee checks. Other workers have told ABC13 they had the same problem.

"They making money," the woman said. "They're definitely making money. Business is not a problem."

ABC13 obtained hundreds of health code violations against Taste Bar and Kitchen through an open records request. They range from food stored in areas that could be contaminated to improper food storage to their refrigerator, dishwasher, and ice machine being red-tagged.

The Houston Health Department said they closed the restaurant down five times since it opened to get up to compliance. Most recently, they were closed from May 4 to May 6 to correct all of their violations.

ABC13 asked the health department how many violations it took to shut down an establishment permanently. They said there is not a set number.

"HHD continues to assess non-compliance and the effort of the operator to get into compliance before a permanent closure is enforced," a spokesperson for HHD said.

After ABC13's Thursday, Bowie agreed to interview with ABC13 on Monday.

Eyewitness cameras ran into Bowie outside the Midtown restaurant Monday, saying he no longer wanted to speak with us.

ABC13 has contacted his attorney, Ben Hall, for comment about any of the allegations, specifically the health code violations and employees struggling to get paid. We have not heard back.

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