13 Investigates: Former workers and state agency says Taste Bar and Kitchen owes them money

The unpaid money controversy comes as the popular restaurant expands.

Mycah Hatfield Image
Wednesday, August 24, 2022
Popular Midtown restaurant owes $162K in unpaid sales tax, state says
Eyewitness News is uncovering new details in a continuing saga involving a Midtown restaurant that has allegedly run afoul with former workers and state tax collectors.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Former employees and state agencies say they are owed money by popular Midtown restaurant, Taste Bar and Kitchen, as it opens new locations.

The Texas Comptroller's Office said this week that the hot spot has not paid about $162,872.14 in sales tax.

In July, it filed a lien against the business for $14,782.08 worth of unpaid taxes for the month of February.

They said they are working with the restaurant and owner, Chef Don Bowie, to get in compliance.

Last year, the Texas Workforce Commission also filed a lien against the restaurant for $10,702.52 in unpaid taxes as well.

Three former employees, two who were fired and one who left on his own, reached out to ABC13 this week saying they are having trouble with their payroll checks.

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

Nicholas, who did not want to use his last name, said he is not able to cash his check. He said he has gone to three different locations trying to cash it but has not had any luck.

"I can't pay my bills," he said. "I can't live. I work to live, and all the hard work money I worked for I can't get it."

They said the checks, for about $350, either bounce or are not accepted. They said it typically takes between three days to a week to be able to get their money.

He and two others who reached out to ABC13 all said a bank near the restaurant will no longer accept checks from Taste.

One of the employees video-recorded an employee at a check cashing store who said it was not allowed to accept checks from Taste either, because the business owes them money.

"You can't get your money, and then they'll try to give you Cash apps or send you money on Zelle, stuff like that," former employee Tyrone Green said. "It's real under the table stuff."

While employees scramble to get their hands on the money they're owed, Taste Bar and Kitchen is in the process of opening a location in Missouri City, downtown Houston, and a to-go location, according to its Instagram. The restaurant posted on social media about a recent hiring event.

"That's why I fear for the next people," Nicholas said. "All these people got their hopes up. 'Oh, yes, I finally get to work at Taste Bar,' which is very big on social media, and that's what people are blinded by."

Bowie is wrapped up in lawsuits with his business partner at Taste Bar and Kitchen and his new restaurant Rare on Washington Avenue. Partners at both locations claim he's taking money.

He is also involved in a legal battle with the landlord of the Midtown restaurant.

ABC13 reached out to Bowie asking about the unpaid taxes and employees, as well as the new locations.

He only responded by asking if current employees had reached out saying they had not cashed their checks.

SEE MORE: Taste Bar and Kitchen Midtown restaurant re-opens after closing due to repeat health violations

The restaurant will be able to re-open when they have corrected their violations and pass a subsequent inspection.

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