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Lakewood's Ivory Keys piano bar closes, staff and vendors claim pay problems

Posted: 10:53 AM, Jan 27, 2018
Updated: 2018-01-27 11:00:23-05
Ivory Keys bar closed, staff claims pay issues
Ivory Keys bar closed, staff claims pay issues

Some employees, vendors and contractors who worked at The Ivory Keys Piano Bar on Detroit Road in Lakewood claim they're owed significant pay, after the nightspot suddenly shut down on Jan. 20.

The location was officially open less than a month, and some of the people who worked at that location believe owner Tom Russo left them with unkept promises.

Julia Thomas told News 5 she put in dozens of hours without pay over a six week period.

"He was going to open up another location, and I was going to run this one," said Thomas. 

"This whole great plan that sounded awesome. So I just feel stupid," she said. "So now not only do they not have a job, they are out all those hours that they just worked for free."

Vendor Stephen DiBiasio said his company, E-Tech Computers, put in more than $1,500 on work at the nightspot but claims his company was never compensated.

"We put about three weeks of time in there, getting the whole point of sale system set-up," said DiBiasio.

"I just think that it was poorly managed," DiBasio said. "You can't just open up a business and not pay anybody."

DiBiasio said he'll be taking Russo to small claims court.

News 5 contacted Ivory Keys owner Tom Russo.

Russo apologized for the sudden closing, but said not all claims made by former vendors and employees are accurate.

Russo issued the following statement in response to our story:

"I apologize for another location failure in Lakewood.  Multiple restaurants have failed in this location.

My opinion Is that there are too many restaurants in this area and that social media can kill you, especially with disgruntled people slandering me.

They have been slamming the place even before it opened.  This type of problem just happened at another location downtown due to issues with social media.  It’s hard to open a place when the odds are stacked against you.

I had a management company that had zero patience or time to let me thrive.  My rent was just due in January and they added multiple increases on the side of management. I had entertainment costs that buried me and I was offering free entertainment by charging no cover charge I thought it work. I was spending $4000 a week just on entertainment.

It was a failed business plan in an area that cannot sustain the type of draw to keep it going. I will not continue to lose money and fight social media, it’s impossible.

Many restaurants have closed and have properly handled their business when it closed.

I apologize to our patrons and my employees and vendors I thank the City of Lakewood."