Integrated Assets Management Inc. officials, including former owner Winston Bennett, knew for months that the company’s restaurants were in serious financial trouble, according to several of the company’s employees.
In a previous interview with St. John Tradewinds, Bennett claimed no knowledge of the financial problems of Asolare, Paradiso and Chloe and Bernard’s saying he sold the company to Michael San Fillipo in 2005.
“I sold Integrated at the end of 2005 to Michael San Fillipo and he defaulted and left island,” Bennett told Tradewinds in early October. “I’m trying to see what I can do to save the assets. This was certainly a surprise to me”
Bennett, however, attended a meeting with employees and management in June where the dire financial situation — which led to employees not getting paid and restaurants operating on limited hours — was discussed.
“I know for sure that Winston knew about the issues going on at the restaurants back in June,” said one employee. “He said he was surprised by all this, but he definitely was not. We all had a meeting back in June and we said things were looking really bad and we were owed a lot of money.”
Bennett offered to pay employees with his own money, as long as they then looked for a new job, according to several Integrated workers.
Despite the promise and warning, however, no one was paid, the employees added.
“He hasn’t paid anyone,” said one Integrated employee.
Next, workers were given notices informing them they would be independent contractors in the future, according to an employee.
“We all got a letter saying they wanted us to be independent contractors,” said the employee. “They were going to close the company and reopen it with independent contractors. We told them that was illegal and went to the Department of Labor and filed wage claims.”
Management’s next move was to issue a notice to employees in late August informing them of new procedures.
“For the next two months, St. John will experience the worst slow season since Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 and with economic conditions rivaling the 1929 depression,” according to the memo. “So that our restaurants can remain strong and viable, we need to cut expenses in every area.”
The new procedures included scheduling less staff in the front and back of the house and pooling tips with front of the house staff, which would off-set managers’ salaries. Management also reduced the hours at the restaurants, opening only a few nights a week, if at all, according to employees.
Also, while Bennett claimed to have sold the company, he remained treasurer of the corporation, according to an employee.
“When police investigated Integrated’s files, they listed San Fillipo as president, Coby Copper as vice president and Winston as treasurer,” said the employee. “He was always involved.”
Despite not receiving pay checks for months — some Integrated employees said they hadn’t been paid since February — workers continue to go to the restaurants and hope for things to improve.
“We all care about each other,” said an employee. “We’re like a family — for us to give up seems wrong. I’d like for people to come clean and just be honest.”
“The restaurant is like our home,” said another employee. “We have customers who come back every year. We’re really like a family.”
“We’d like a new owner to come in and take over,” said the employee.