As hard as it is for me to write any negative news related to pizza, Connecticut pizza eatery Mystic Pizza is making me do it. The restaurant has been cited by the Connecticut Department of Labor for withholding employee wages for over two years. The place might sound familiar because it is also the setting of the 1988 cult coming-of-age film of the same name. If you did not know that Mystic Pizza was a real establishment, then I hate to break it to you, but you are literally the only one.
The restaurant has been a tourist attraction for many years, and is probably the most popular restaurant in the small town of Mystic. (Well, other than a McDonald's, if they have one.) Basically, money is definitely coming in for this place yet John Zelepos, Mystic Pizza's owner for the past 40 years, has been paying employees less than $6 an hour. That's far less than the state's mandated minimum wage of $8.70. The highest-paid employees were still getting less than the minimum, making only $7.40 per hour. Not only that, but Zelepos did not even give his employees any of the required overtime wages. Looking at the bright side, Mystic Pizza (the film) was the restaurant's only claim to fame until now!
The Department of Labor began investigating the restaurant once three employees filed complaints. Yahoo! News reports, "The Labor Department reviewed employees' work hours from May 2012 to June 2014 and determined that employees worked up to 93 hours a week and were not paid required overtime, the agency said."
Ninety-three hours? Are there even that many hours in a week? That's cruel, and insane.
Hey, John Zelepos: You are a cruel and insane man.
The restaurant currently owes $105,000 in back pay and unpaid income, as well as $23,000 in civil penalties for wage violations. Please don't hate me for making this horrible pun, but…that's a lot of dough! Actually, you can hate me for that one. It's fine. I understand.
Now, I know what you're thinking: What does Julia Roberts have to say about all this? After all, the film did launch her career. Matt Damon's, too (first film role he ever had). I think it's the duty of celebrities loosely associated with horrible things to fix those horrible things they are in no way responsible for. Perhaps Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, and the less famous people in the film can all pitch in and buy Mystic Pizza. Kind of like what Sylvester Stallone, Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger did with Planet Hollywood. However, this would be even better because it wouldn't be a Planet Hollywood. Plus, how fun would it be to see Matt Damon in an apron, tossing some dough around as Julia Roberts' brighter-than-the-sun iconic smile heats up all the pizza?
The fate of Zelepos is not yet known. What excuse does the guy have, other than being stingy and ruthless? Maybe he still thinks it's 1988? This might be the only valid excuse. I do genuinely hope employees get fairly compensated for all the hard work they put in over the years. Restaurant work is one of the toughest jobs out there. Especially if it's a busy one filled with tourists. I lasted less than a month as an employee of Chuck E. Cheese's when I was 16. Granted, the majority of the trauma I have from that place has more to do with having to wear a giant rat costume and hear parents tell their kids that I was "Junior Chuckie" because of I was only five feet tall. Regardless, minimum wage is barely enough to make it in the United States. Paying less than minimum wage is inhumane, even with tips. Unless tips are a huge amount per employee, per hour. Although nothing about the tip situation has been revealed, something tells me this is not the case. If it was, employees would not be complaining to the Department of Labor in the first place. Get your act together, Zelepos.
Better yet, take over Mystic Pizza, various celebrities from that movie of the same name who have nothing to do with this, but who are also the reason it made news in the first place.