By Judy Reed
A local restaurant abruptly closed its doors last week and the owner told employees, many of them teenagers, that she has no money to pay them.
Jonelle Woods, owner of Rosie’s Diner, 4500 14 Mile Road, told employees on Saturday, October 1, that the diner would be closed on Monday and Tuesday for repairs. But it never reopened.
Rebecca Klompstra, a long-time waitress and day manager at the restaurant, said she got a telephone call from Woods Tuesday morning asking her to come in so Woods could talk to her. When she got there, Woods’ car was in the lot, but the door was locked and her key didn’t fit. Not only that, the place was gutted.
“There was no restaurant equipment, the tables and chairs were gone, the grill, the refrigeration unit, everything. I knew right then we were done,” said Klompstra.
She said Woods told her she had gotten a phone call that morning saying she couldn’t reopen. When Klompstra asked her about their paychecks, Woods said that her money was all “frozen.”
“I told her that she had to pay those kids. They’ve worked their butts off for her, working after school and weekends,” explained Klompstra. She noted that it’s not just wages, but tips, too. “She owes some of them $500-$600.”
Woods called a meeting that night with the teens, and told them to make sure she had their correct address, and that when she got the money, she would pay them. But when Klompstra stopped in on Wednesday and talked with her again about the paychecks, she said Woods told her it wasn’t going to happen, that there was no money.
Klompstra knew things had been going downhill for Woods, but had no inkling anything like this was going to happen. She said that the last couple of utility bills were paid after a utility worker came to the door and said he was shutting off the power if it wasn’t paid right then. “I had a restaurant full of diners and had to get her on the phone and get a credit card number so we wouldn’t get shut off,” said Klompstra.
Jim Putnam, a line/prep cook at Rosie’s, is another worker hit by the closing. Putnam retired from General Motors when the 36th Street plant closed. Because the plant shut down, he qualified for the No Worker Left Behind program, which helped supplement his income from Rosie’s, to help him transition back into the workforce. Not only does he lose his Rosie’s paycheck, but he loses the grant as well. “I’m out about $1,500,” he said.
Putnam said he knew something wasn’t right about closing for repairs. “When I left a week ago, Jonelle didn’t say anything. When they closed, she didn’t even call me. She called and thanked my wife, but didn’t talk to me.” He said the closing won’t hurt him as much as the kids. “Some of them live from paycheck to paycheck and use it for car payments and college tuition,” he said.
The full-time adults should be able to file a claim for unemployment. But the teens don’t usually qualify for that. According to the state of Michigan, however, they should be able to file a claim with the wage/hour division on the state’s website. Jack Finn, who works for that division, said whether the claims are granted depends on the solvency of the business. “If the business is not solvent, then they are like unsecured creditors,” he explained. That means that they might not get paid if Woods files bankruptcy.
The property is listed as belonging to Woodcock Real properties, out of Bloomfield Hills. That company is owned by Jon Woods, Jonelle’s father. He is an accountant at Plante & Moran.
We called Jonelle Woods’ cell phone got a message that the number was changed or disconnected. A call to her father’s office had not yet been returned at press time.