LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The North End Café, a staple of Frankfort Avenue’s dining scene since 2003, filed for bankruptcy protection this month, with the business’ owners using the type of proceeding that indicates they plan to liquidate the business' assets.
The May 3 filing comes as the café’s owners – operator Christopher Seckman and investors Walton and Whitney Jones – remain embroiled in a 2018 lawsuit in which the federal government alleges their business stiffed restaurant employees out of overtime pay.
The U.S. Department of Labor says employees who worked at both the Frankfort Avenue restaurant and at North End Café’s second location on Bardstown Road, which was open from 2011 to 2019, should have been paid overtime for weekly hours in excess of 40, even if the two restaurants were organized under distinct limited liability companies.
“The two restaurants, in addition to sharing a name, not surprisingly, served the same type of food and largely the same menu. And, as key to this case, the two restaurants also shared employees in their kitchens during the same workweeks,” the labor department said in a court filing last month.
It’s unclear whether the bankruptcy filing is related to the Department of Labor’s lawsuit, which seeks more than $250,000 in back wages and damages. But North End Café attorneys indicated in a court filing that the bankruptcy case halts the lawsuit.
An attorney for the North End Café defendants did not return a call for comment.
UPDATE, May 13: North End Cafe confirmed in Facebook post that the Frankfort Avenue location will not reopen.
The Bardstown Road location closed in February 2019, while the original Frankfort Avenue has been closed since March 16 in accordance with Gov. Andy Beshear’s emergency order closing restaurants to in-person dining.
Beshear will allow restaurants to resume inside service on May 22 but with restrictions, including limiting customers to 33% of normal capacity.
The North End owners filed bankruptcy papers on behalf of both companies, the North End Café LLC (Frankfort Avenue) and NEVC LLC (Bardstown Road), which listed $0 combined assets and liabilities totaling more than $271,000, not including any potential liability from the labor department’s lawsuit.
The filing for the Frankfort Avenue location lists dozens of miscellaneous restaurant supplies with $0 book value, including 115 coffee cups, 34 steak knives and 100 salt and pepper shakers.
The bankruptcy filing shows the Frankfort Avenue location’s revenue was $1.9 million in 2019, up from $1.8 million in 2018. The Bardstown Road location took in $1.8 million in 2018, its last full year of operation.