Labor Department investigates Donovan Reef for not paying workers: State

BRANFORD, CT — A state Department of Labor investigation has been opened following “several complaints of non-payment of wages” at Donovan’s Reef restaurant in Branford, officials said.

“The first complaints were received earlier this week and investigators immediately opened the case and began a review,” a spokesperson for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Workplace Standards Division said in an email. -email Patch.

The role of the Wage and Labor Standards Division is to protect Connecticut workers by enforcing labor laws, including fair wage and employment standards.

When a complaint is received, investigators begin an investigation, may verify employment, payroll and other records, and may issue stop work orders to protect workers. Companies found guilty of violating labor laws are subject to fines and/or criminal and civil penalties.

Patch reached out by phone and email to Steve Sinapis, owner of the popular and longtime Branford restaurant, for comment. Neither was immediately fired.

Last week, restaurant and catering workers at 1212 Main Street in the Branford Lockworks building went on strike after reporting they hadn’t been paid for months.

Employee Schuylar Giwa posted on a Branford community Facebook page August 20. It garnered more than 225 comments, most offering support for workers. The post has been shared over 350 times.

“This post is to let everyone know that the employees at Donovan’s Reef Restaurant in Branford are currently on strike due to the owner’s refusal and neglect to pay his staff members. This has been going on for a few months now and has even happened to the point where management has been left to pay the team out of pocket. This is absolutely ridiculous, and the owners refuse to take responsibility. When emailed regarding the issue, the owners have only chose to reply to the address used to send the email and not the problem to be solved, “Cute email address” The owners are negligent and selfish, they don’t care about the welfare of the employees and of the effect this is having on their livelihoods. Please support the staff in this ongoing issue as the restaurant will not be able to open without this team.”

The restaurant was closed on Thursday when Patch went to talk to Sinapis, or any direction available. The doors were locked. And several calls either went unanswered or went straight to voicemail. The restaurant has been closed for at least a week.


Donavan’s Reef owner got $300,000 in coronavirus protection loans, both forgiven

The company registered in Connecticut with Sinapis as owner is Cnaps LLC.
According to federal records, the restaurant received a $149,900 Paycheck Protection Loan through Ion Bank. It was approved on April 30, 2020.

Those same federal records show a second loan of $149,000, approved in January 2021.

In the records, it appears that the loans were granted to pay the salaries of 40 employees and keep them.

Both loans were flagged by the Small Business Administration as “paid in full or fully forgiven” of repayment under PPP guidelines.

These guidelines allow borrowers to get loan forgiveness if the money was used for eligible payroll costs, commercial mortgage interest payments, rent or utilities during the eight or 24 week period following the loan disbursement. A borrower may request a forgiveness once they have used all of the proceeds of the loan for which the borrower is requesting a forgiveness.

Patch attempted to reach Sinapis to ask about both the Labor Department investigation and the PPP loans. Neither emails nor phone calls were returned.

Patch Editor Rich Kirby contributed to the report.

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