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June 16, 2011

Update: Jason Zink sells Don't Know Tavern following lawsuit loss

Jason Zink has sold Don't Know Tavern, the South Baltimore bar he's owned for four years, likely the result of the financial burden of a lawsuit he lost in March.

A federal judge ruled then Zink was in violation of federal labor law by participating in the tip pool of his employees at Don't Know and No Idea, Zink's other bar. 

Zink told the Daily Record at the time attorneys' fees on the lawsuit could exceed $100,000. 

Writing on Facebook, Zink said June 26 will be his last shift at the bar. 

"As many of you have already heard, I have sold Don't Know Tavern. I want to personally invite you to my last shift there and to have a drink with me," he said.

He did not mention the lawsuit. Zink has not responded to requests for comment. It is not clear who's Don't Know's new owner, or if the bar will close temporarily.

(Update: Contrary to what he wrote on Facebook, Zink clarified via e-mail the bar's sale is not yet final, and that he will have more to say about its future and the lawsuit next week.)

Three of Zink's employees filed suit in 2009, charging Zink's participation in the pool meant they were owed $10,000 together.

Federal judge Richard Bennett ruled in their favor in March, saying the Fair Labor Standards Act allows bar owners to pay their staff less than minimum wage as long as employees collect tips. Owners like Zink, Bennett said, are not allowed to be part of that pool even if he worked as a bartender. 

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 opinion. Damages on the Zink lawsuit have not been settled yet.

On his last day as an owner, Zink is making at least one magnanimous gesture. A free buffet will be provided for guests.

Photo: Don't Know Tavern (600block)  

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Posted by Erik Maza at 11:39 AM | | Comments (30)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


When contacted for comment and asked what he'd do next, he replied "No Idea"

I'll be here all week. Try the steak.

"Damages on the Zink lawsuit have not been settled yet"
When asked how much this will cost him, Zink responded: Don't Know.

Oh my, does this mean he won't be endlessly shilling in the comments sections anymore - that's a shame

Jason Zink sucks - he has always been a cheapskate and untrustworthy, good riddance.

damn- say it aint so....

I knew something was up when they didn't advertise any Arbor Day specials.

This is such a petty lawsuit, and I feel like those who pursued it have a lot of bad karma headed their way. The people who sued him did it only because they saw an opportunity to sink their hooks into somebody who had created a successful business.

People can say what they want about Jason, but the bottom line is, he was passionate about the bar, and worked his ass off to try to bring people in. (by the way, this is what was generating all the tips for the staff)

What do they think they are really owed? If, anything, and I say IF, maybe a couple hundred dollars. Instead they get the inflated court ruling of 10-15k$ each, the lawyer gets his cut, and it ends up costing him over a 100K, and ultimately the business. I understand the law states that this is irrelevant, but the guy was working as a bartender when he was collecting these tips. It wasn't like he would be gone all day, and come back when the bar was giving last call, only to collect his tips. I feel so sorry for him.

In my eyes, this is like the person who sued Mcdonald's because the coffee they spilled on their lap was hot. Some people are not capable of becoming successful on their own, so they look for any opportunity they can to leach of of somebody who is.

Can we please ID the leech who sued, and outline where they bartend currently so we can boycott?

The plaintiff's are public record...
Tara Gionfriddo = The Reserve
Eric Gilbert = ?
Aaron Zetzer = ?

Zetzer@ miguels cantina y cocina

I just had to click 12 times to get to a blog entry that actually discusses a bar in baltimore. without this blog, I have no reason to come to the Suns website.


Any info on who bought the bar? How much? etc?

@adotleb: Zink has clammed up all of a sudden, and he doesn't want to comment until some time this week.

I hear one of Mcfaul's managers and someone else bought it? Just a rumor I heard though.

Anon- that rumor is true but things fall through all the time so we'll see!

Good Riddance to him!! I've had my fair share of dealings with him on both social & neighborhood related issues. I'm glad to see him out of that location. I will give it to him that he took 'Jerry's' aka 'The Hole'' & turned it into a more populated establishment off Cross St & helped bolster better business down Light Street towards Fort. However...he has never played nice with other business owners in the neighborhood, vendors, and friends. So if anyone has their Karma coming to them...he finally got his!!! To the tune of 1 lost business & $100k down the tubes. I hope he's learned his lesson & takes his show on the road.

@flowerbabe ouch! I thought I was always nice to you. Please give some examples.
@kgm801 you hit the nail on the head
@tif you are a great guy, thanks
@tinkeltown I put a lot of money into that place and I paid my staff very well. I am also an open book, not hiding behind anything
@ omg and sturmy-funny
@foo big party at DK this Sunday- free food
Everything else will be posted on when the time is right.

So let me get this right...I've followed this story loosely for a while...rather than settle quietly for 10-20k...the owner bankrupted himself and put his reputation in jeopardy? This story seems like a case of miscommunication and people not sorting things out before they got too big to handle. I knew Tara for a while and she never was the type to "sink her hooks" in to someone for some money. This is the type thing that happens to a business when too much heart is poored in and not enough brains. Hopefully everyone learned a lesson and you move on with it.

It sounds like the lawyers wanted to make money off this more than plaintiffs. Lawyers can always make cases last longer no matter if somebody wants to settle or not just so theycan run up their fees.

@eloquent- Get your facts right, Jason is not bankrupt, far from it.. I am a neutral party, and i still think tara and the other bartenders are scumbags, whether jason did something wrong or not they were simply disgruntled ex employees, that thought they could make a quick buck... now any bar owner in baltimore would have to be insane to hire them, hope it was worth the 3k that they all got from the 115k law suit

Damn. What a shame. But this just adds more evidence to the case of Don't Know: Great bar, shitty staff. More often than not the service in that place blows. But I keep coming back for the good draft selection, quality food, and shuffle board.

@gg - My bad, shouldnt have used bankrupt. But I hardly think Zink has 100K sittin in a suitcase somewhere. Also, um, you hardly seem nuetral, sorry, hate to break it to ya. In your statement you admonish the plaintiffs and then say "whether jason did something wrong or not". Well, if he did, he deserves to be called out on it, no? I agree wholeheartedly with hillsider's comment. Lawyers have a funny way of making those on the outside forget that its the lawyers driving this process alot of the times.

So is Mr. Zink planning on keeping No Idea? I hope so! Drunk ping pong!!

Yes, he's keeping No Idea. More info will be available on the blog that Zink plugged. Erik knows why.

So answer this. Don't you think the your friend's (I mean the plaintiff's) suit is rather excessive?


Any info on the rumors about our beloved Muggsy's?

Great law. So what does every small bar with an owner/operator supposed to do? If I own and work in my bar, I can't collect tips? Who gets them then? That said, Jason had been trying to sell No Idea for a long time (and the Don't know for the right price.) Highly ironic that he's keeping NI now. As for the haters, I've met Jason more then several times and he's always been straight up honest (almost to a fault) with/to me and his staff. No, I've never worked for or with him. GG summed it up well.

Muggsy's is dunzo. They are down to two beers on tap. Rotating craft beer taps in a low key bar in Federal Hill, too good to be true. Sad day for SoBo bar scene.

Yes, if you are the owner operator and only employee of your bar, then you can keep your tips. However, if you are the owner and also working and so is another bartender, the other bartender gets the tips for working because the owners tips for working is the profit the business makes. Makes sense to me.

Thanks Josh. I can see if your working side by side, then yes, the other bartender gets the tips. If your working alone on your shift, you get to keep your tips. Who owns and operates a bar by themselves with no help whatsoever.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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