Cowboys BBQ and Country Club, a restaurant with a short and stormy run on Helena’s west side early this year, operated only a few weeks before some employees reported that they weren’t getting paid.

Last week, a Lewis and Clark County district judge agreed with the workers, signing default orders requested by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, which determined that 16 employees — cooks, cleaners, carpenters and others — are owed about $19,211 in unpaid wages, plus an additional $11,000 in penalties for late payment of the wages,

That’s in addition to about $2,000 in fines the restaurant owes the department.

The unpaid wages ranged from $50 for one worker to $5,895 for another, who claimed he had help re-model the facility.

The restaurant was open about a month in early 2012, but conflicts quickly arose between its apparent owner, Jimmie Russell, and staff.

An altercation between Russell and a cook led to disorderly conduct citations. Later, Russell was ar-rested on an Idaho warrant.

One of the employees took over the restaurant, claiming someone had bought out Russell’s interest.

A few days later, the restaurant closed for good, with the landlord of the Euclid Avenue building post-ing a notice that the tenants had not paid their rent.

It’s not clear whether any of the employees will ever recover their wages. At least one claim against the restaurant — from Power Townsend for more than $5,000 for picnic tables returned in potentially unsellable condition — remains open in District Court.

The business was registered under the name of Jimmie Russell’s son, Michael A. Russell, but he said in February he was working to get his name off all paperwork associated with the operation. He claimed that his father used his name to seek a cabaret license because he could not get one himself, and had cheated him out of $40,000.

The elder Russell denied that he had cheated his son or anyone else. No one responded to a message left Tuesday with a phone number he had in February.

The restaurant flew a Texas flag, but court documents link the restaurateurs to Macon, Ga.

Most of the employees who filed wage claims with the state said they were paid nothing at all. The Russells did not respond to the Department of Labor’s invitations to contest the claims, ultimately leading to the default order.

Dave Gallik, a Helena lawyer who represented the owners, told the state that the entity named by the employees, Cowboy’s Barbeque and Country Club LLC, existed solely to obtain a cabaret license and did not operate the restaurant or have employees. But state investigators found otherwise, saying in court documents that the LLC “was more actively involved in the operation of the business than they admit-ted to their attorney.”

Reporter Sanjay Talwani: 447-4086 or sanjay.talwani@helenair.com or Twitter.com/IR_SanjayT

(8) comments

FlamingLiberal1
FlamingLiberal1

I'm not holding my breath about anyone collecting. Unfortunately, this fellow appears to have been running a con game and he appears to lack the resources to make good on any of these debts.

rotten1spoiled
rotten1spoiled

I am one of those many who worked for this company that went know where fast, Never got payed for the time i worked there. Was told over and over i would get my wages and weeks and weeks went by and nothing...went to labor board and to the ppl who issued our checks and they told us they did not have the money to pay us nor could give us any info about what was going on...It would be nice for all of us who lost out on pay and busted our butts for them to recieve some money for the wages we worked

steeline
steeline

rotten1spoiled, you got a bad deal. I have to applaud you for your work ethic and sticking with the job as long as you did. I am sorry you got stiffed. This is an example of promises on top of promises. Just like Obama's promises he has made to America. After four years in office it appears that America will end up like the emplyees of Cowboy's Barbeque and Country Club, LLC. Obama is not good for the worker, he wants all your money to give away. Be careful who you vote for, if you work for a living.

4fishing
4fishing

Why was there no contractors lean put on the building?

FlamingLiberal1
FlamingLiberal1

Leave it to steeline to blame this on Obama. Absolutely mind-boggling.

dietz1963
dietz1963

Its always funny how the pendulum swings. I still remember when Bush was in office and how just about everything was blamed on him. Same deal here, everything blamed on Obama.

steeline
steeline

FlamingLiberal1- When I blame Obama for the ineptness he demonstrates I also blame those who bought his line of BS and voted for him. We have to save America.

SerialThriller
SerialThriller

Flamer, your name says it all. I didnt see ANYTHING you saw in Steels comment but more a generalization of the FACT. Obama HAS brought OUR great country to its knees. Literally. Its shameful more Americans refuse to face whats in front of their eyes. On THAT note...I totally agree with dietz.

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