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July 6, 2011

Don't Know Tavern lawsuit settled for $115K; in shocker, lawyer grabs most of it

Jason Zink has settled the lawsuit five former employees brought against him two years ago.

Under the settlement, which was filed Tuesday in federal court, Zink agrees to pay his former employees and their attorney $115,000.18. 

The payment is to be made in several installments of several thousand dollars over the next two years. 

Under the settlement, Zink and the former employees also agree to a confidentiality agreement that bars them from discussing the details of the case. The Daily Record first reported the settlement news.

Three of Zink's employees sued him in 2009 for participating in what they charged was an employee-only tip pool, one that as an owner he should not have belonged to. Two other employees, bartender Brian Emar and sous chef Astrid Garrison, later joined the suit as well.

The three original plaintiffs charged at the time they were owed $10,000 together. In March, a federal judge, Richard Bennett, ruled Zink was in violation of federal labor law by participating in the tip pool, and the two sides have been negotiating a settlement since. 

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 March opinion. 

The settlement awards the bulk of the damages - about  $98,000 - to the employees' Silver Spring attorney, Philip Zipin, who will receive it in installments of $2,000 over the next 49 months, the agreement said. The employees are themselves getting a collective $15,000.18.

Zink's first payment to his former employees is due three days after Bennett approves the settlement. It consists of a payment of $5,000.06 to be divided between the five employees, with Emar getting the largest share. Zink's last payment is scheduled to be made this August.

Zink told the Daily Record in March the lawsuit could hurt his business. And on June 26, he served his last shift at his Don't Know Tavern after selling it for an undisclosed amount.

He has not responded to repeated requests for comment on the lawsuit or the bar's sale. 

Photo: Don't Know Tavern (600block)   

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Posted by Erik Maza at 11:43 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


The effin law *sigh- was he not working and deserving the tips??? was there 100K in tips he garnered? Can the 3 employees sue the lawyer for taking their "tips"?

And lawyers wonder why people think so little of them....

I can't tell you how flagrant and disgusting this is... Don't forget to add in Jason's 100k in personal legal fees. I hope all 3 of them rot and maybe the lawyer will get his too.

I got no problem with this. You hire a lawyer, he tells you the price, you choose to pay it. This obviously wasn't a contigency deal because lawyers aren't allowed to receive a percentage that large on contingency. So that was the fee they agreed to before they jumped into this. Don't blame the lawyer for doing his job, and doing a pretty damn good job it sounds like.

The real question here is whether it's too late to redeem my LivingSocial coupon at Don't Know now that it has been sold (it otherwise expires at the end of the month)...

not the lawyers fault that principle got in the way of being rational.

Dont know will still honor any unused living social/ groupon/ gift certificates that were issued under old ownership

So this law is federal? people in ca, ohio, and whether in between have to abide by this? Thanks you three. I hate you just as much as mike vick for making me buy water now at the airport.

@clint- the parties involved were all offered more than their final settlement. Their lawyer drove his price up. All five actually got less than what was offered. It wasn't about the money, it was about hurting Jason financially. It looks like they got 3k on average??? I am sure that if that was all they wanted from the get go, they would have gotten it. It seems that the plaintiffs and the defendant were probably rational, it's the lawyers that were involved and their egos.

It was one of the first cases of it's kind. Now they have opened up a floodgate for others to sue their bosses. This won't be the last time that you read about Zink vs. Gionfriddo. I just question the spirit of the statute/law.

Maza, have you tried to question the plaintiffs in this case? I wonder what their positions are.

So you're suggesting the lawyer quoted them one rate and then changed it?

I'll never knowingly visit a bar that employes one of the 3 leeches who sued.

@Dave- it looks like the defendant had to pay their legal fees which were 100k, it doesn't look like a contigency type of case, but who knows? The plaintiffs received 15k all together after their lawyer earlier stated that they were owed 10k each. Like most cases the only people that win are the lawyers, it's odd to see a lawyer get 100k and 5 plaintiffs get 3k each.

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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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