Legal Battle on Tap for Heartland Brewery

A dark shadow falls over Heartland.
A dark shadow falls over Heartland.haha Photo: Therese-Heather Belen

Beer foam may not be the only thing Heartland Brewery is skimming: A class-action lawsuit alleges that management has cheated its part-timers out of pay, systematically shaving time off of punch-card records, failing to cough up overtime, and forcing those who worked private parties to pool any tips they received above the mandatory gratuity. The end result, the suit claims, is that employees were paid less than federal minimum wage.

“We allege that it’s not a one-manager or two-manager thing,” says attorney Maimon Kirschenbaum, whose firm brought similar charges against Smith & Wollensky last year. The lawyer claims plaintiff Peter Fasanelli, a bartender, and two unnamed plaintiffs were shafted while working at all six of Heartland’s locations, including Spanky’s BBQ. “There is no validity or truth to the claim,” Heartland CEO and founder Jon Bloostein tells us. “We’ve always operated in keeping with all the federal, state, and local labor laws.” A figure still hasn’t been determined (Heartland has a week or two to respond to the complaint), but last year, employees of a Boston steakhouse received $2.5 million in a similar suit. —Daniel Maurer