Cafe Society

Open exactly one month, Skew skids to a close after employees allegedly steal from owner

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To hear Phairatphibon, a self-described monk who's "a great admirer of Jesus Christ," tell his story is sad and bewildering. It's a made-for-movie script that President Obama and Oprah Winfrey have been privy to, in the form of a letter that Phairatphibon has sent to both, outlining, what, he says, is "a lack of moral accountability in this country."

For reasons that may or may not make sense, Phairatphibon hires staff that many of us would think twice about bringing into our workplace: alcoholics, drug addicts, parolees. But that's exactly what he did when he assembled the staff at Skew -- and then, according to him, he got skewered. So skewered, in fact, that within thirty days of opening his doors, he was forced to shut them. "It's organized crime," he insists. "I hired these people, gave them management positions, and then they worked in teams to steal from me."

His office, he claims, was broken into on a daily basis; money was stolen from the cash register; other employees were also targets of theft; and even customers, maintains, Phairatphibon, were the victims of robbery. In addition, he says, he's a victim of identify theft. "The people responsible for this stole my checking account and routing numbers to get their own checks made," he tells me. And, yet, some of the very same staff members, who Phairatphibon accuses of thievery, are still on the payroll. "If I fire them," he reasons, "they're just going to shift their tactics to another restaurant." But that begs the question: If your employees are stealing from you -- and you're holding them responsible for wiping out your restaurant -- why on earth would you continue to employ them?

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson