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Will the Owner of the Ava Lounge Stand Up?

The Chatwals, long very visibly tied to the Ava Lounge, deny any association after the bar is sued.

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In the wake of a federal lawsuit accusing two bars in Sant Singh Chatwal's Dream Hotel in Manhattan of violating labor laws, an attorney and a Hampshire Hotel official are suggesting that Chatwal is not associated with the businesses.

Douglas Rowe, who claims to represent Chatwal and his son Vikram Chatwal, as well as the two business entities sued, Broadway Regency Restaurant, LLC and Broadway 55th Lounge, LLC, says the Chatwals "are not employers under the law" for purposes of the lawsuit.

Ashok Advani, corporate controller of Hampshire Hotels, earlier told Little India that neither Chatwal nor his son Vikram are associated with the bars, which are leased to the companies by Dream Hotel. Pressed on whether the Chatwals have any ownership or corporate affiliations with the companies, however, Rowe hedged, saying that he was not prepared at this stage to make such a statement until he could "investigate all the facts." He could not unequivocally state that the Chatwals "have no other association" with the businesses.

Frosty Vibes at Chatwal's Ava Lounge
Eight former cocktail waitresses and bartenders at the lounge, located in the penthouse of the Chatwal-owned Dream Hotel in Manhattan, as well as Rm. Fifty5, a bar in the hotel's lobby, are suing in federal court, charging that they were not paid minimum state and federal wages, overtime and tips. More
Rowe who claims to also represent the two businesses that have been sued, declined to identify their owners.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Denise A Schulman, said the plaintiffs' "information and belief" is that the Chatwals are owners of the lounges and that they could speak to  an assertion to the contrary only when a motion is filed in court.

Both businesses are registered with the New York State Department of State as limited liability corporations, which are not required to publicly disclose the names and addresses of its members or managers. Broadway Regency Restaurant was registered on March 26, 2002, while Broadway 55th Lounge was registered on March 4, 2004.

Both lounges have long been publicly associated with the Chatwals and Vikram Chatwal especially has frequently been tied as owner of the Ava Lounge in scores of profiles and media reports over the years. One profile of Vikram Chatwal, who was a speaker at the Luxury Marketing Council's conference on "The Impact of Spa & Wellness on the Luxury Market," on April 20, 2006, for example, notes, "he opened AVA Lounge in September 2002 to great acclaim...."

In addition, Federal Election Commission records  reveal that both Chatwals listed their affiliations with Broadway Regency Restaurant and Broadway 55th Lounge in several campaign contributions they made between 2004 to 2008, which includes the period covered in the lawsuit.

Eight former cocktail waitresses and bartenders at the lounges located in the penthouse and lobby of the Dream Hotel are suing the Chatwals and the companies in federal court, charging that they were not paid minimum state and federal wages, overtime and tips. The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Southern District of New York also alleges that employees were forced to purchase uniforms, pay for altering and laundering them and charged for customers who failed to pay their bills.

"In addition," the lawsuit alleges, "plaintiff's paychecks routinely reflected fewer hours than they in fact worked. One manager said that regardless of the actual length of a shift worked by tipped employees, he wrote down they worked for eight hours." Although employees "routinely worked 12-hour shifts," a manager told them "it was defendants' policy not to pay employees for more than 40 hours per week, no matter how many hours they worked."

In addition to the Chatwals and the companies, the lawsuit also names Ric Addison as a defendant.



 Updated: Feb 25, 2010

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Entertainment | Arts & Entertainment | Magazine | February 2010

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