In the Fall of 2016, Ellen’s Stardust Diner was going through some serious changes. New management allegedly fired many long-time employees of the famed New York musical eatery, which lead to an attempt to unionize and a class action lawsuit. Now, the Stardust is accusing staff of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
The New York Post reports that the countersuit filed by the restaurant’s owners alleges that over $400,000 was pocketed by servers using the “soda shuffling” or “floating drink” method of charging a customer for a drink, accepting their payment, then moving the drink off the tab to a new check, pocketing the difference. The discovery of the alleged theft was supposedly made when the company brought in outside auditors to review the point of sale system, after an employee tipped off management. And they’re naming names:
One waiter, an actor name Zechariah “Zech” Azazi, allegedly “stole at least $38,167.34” during a four-year period, the papers charge.
Abby Burke allegedly pocketed $18,069.17 over six years.
But employees are suggesting the sudden accusation is a retaliation for that class-action lawsuit being brought by Stardust Family United, a group of workers at the restaurant who have never officially sought federal certification as a union, but who are collectively suing Ellen’s Stardust Diner. Their attorney, Ben Dictor, told the Post that these accusations of theft are meant to “chill other people’s participation” in the worker’s lawsuit, which accuses the owner’s of abusing, withholding and wrongfully distributing their tips.
The diner is also being sued by three mothers who say the restaurant didn’t provide them with a clean, private place to pump breast milk, nor the breaks necessary to do it. they were offered a toilet meant for handicapped patrons, and one woman said her worst day was when she was forced to “express milk into the toilet while another person was in the handicap bathroom.”
Though it is wrong to steal, the price of a soda doesn’t begin to make up for that. Even the price of a soda in Times Square.