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Tavern On LaGrange's former employees, investors file suit over alleged unpaid wages, loans

NBC Universal, Inc.

Former employees of Tavern On LaGrange in the south suburbs are speaking out against the business' former owners, with multiple lawsuits and wage claims filed in the case.

Investors in the business have also joined in the legal actions in the case, seeking repayment from former owners Gregory and Tiffany Perkins.

“I’m owed a substantial amount of money,” said former Tavern On LaGrange manager Antonio Barnes.

Barnes is one of several former employees and investors that are at odds with the former owner of the company. Barnes old NBC Chicago he filed a wage claim with the Illinois Department of Labor against Tavern on LaGrange and the Perkins', alleging he was not paid money owed for working after the family bought the business in Feb. 2020.

“I devoted a ton of time in here," said Barnes. "I had friends that invested money.”

Among those investors was Anita Bennett, who told NBC Chicago she invested $150,000 with Perkins’ company, while Allen Slovick said he invested $100,000. In a statement to NBC 5 News Bennett alleged that Perkins wrote her checks that later bounced.

“They gave me two bogus checks for payment towards the $150,000 that I invested/loaned. They’ve since avoided me…. I want my money back and them held accountable," she said.

Bennett invested money into another restaurant business Perkins was starting. She claims the bank wouldn’t cash the checks Perkins gave her for repayment from their promissory note because the funds weren’t there.

“I just want them to get the justice they deserve for messing with people’s livelihood…I want my money," Slovick said.

Gregory Perkins sat down with NBC 5's Evrod Cassimy for an exclusive interview to explain why Tavern on LaGrange's payroll checks bounced and why he and his investors lost money. When asked if investors had received their money back, Perkins was matter-of-fact.

"They have not," Perkins replied.

"Why not?" NBC Chicago reporter Evrod Cassimy responded.

"Well, those businesses closed,” answered Perkins.

Perkins cited the impacts of COVID-19, saying he couldn't get financing for the restaurant amid the pandemic. He said he leaned on his real estate business for extra cash but that also took a hit when tenants couldn’t pay, and while a moratorium was placed on evictions, his mortgage payments continued coming due.

“I had mortgages totaling about $50,000-$60,000, a month and when people stopped paying, I was unable to pay," said Perkins.

Even with the moratorium lifted, Perkins argues he couldn't repay bills fast enough, and much of the real estate he owned went into foreclosure. Perkins told NBC Chicago he was denied a PPP loan because he was unable to prove Tavern on LaGrange was losing money, and that he and his wife have twice filed for bankruptcy in the years since the pandemic.

According to Perkins, his home is in foreclosure, and some cars were repossessed as he remains behind on payments on other properties.

Barnes' complaint is still pending with the Department of Labor, while Bennett and Slovick filed lawsuits in Cook County Circuit Court. Bennett’s lawsuit demands her money back, plus interest as outlined in a promissory note.

Perkins dismisses allegations of wrongdoing in connection with the case.

"I have never taken one single dime from Tavern On LaGrange and put it in my personal pocket,” said Perkins.

There were attempts made at a settlement between Perkins and Barnes, but talks eventually fell through. Perkins has since sent Barnes a cease and desist letter to stop talking about Tavern On LaGrange publicly.

Today, Perkin’s daughter has part ownership of the company after buying the business with partners and the building it operates out of because he and his wife financially couldn’t. Perkins is now consulting and his wife is back working at a hospital. He insists all bounced payroll checks have been paid. Still, he’s unsure of the financial road ahead for him personally.

“How are you still standing?" asked Cassimy.

"I just think by the grace of God," said Perkins.

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