Workers stiffed $19K by barbecue joint

2012-10-11T00:00:00Z Workers stiffed $19K by barbecue jointBy SANJAY TALWANI Independent Record Helena Independent Record
October 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

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 or

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. SerialThriller
    Report Abuse
    SerialThriller - October 18, 2012 1:18 pm
    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.
  2. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - October 18, 2012 9:16 am
    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.
  3. dietz1963
    Report Abuse
    dietz1963 - October 15, 2012 10:56 am
    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.
  4. FlamingLiberal1
    Report Abuse
    FlamingLiberal1 - October 15, 2012 9:22 am
    Leave it to steeline to blame this on Obama. Absolutely mind-boggling.
  5. 4fishing
    Report Abuse
    4fishing - October 15, 2012 6:11 am
    Why was there no contractors lean put on the building?
  6. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - October 14, 2012 3:19 pm
    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.
  7. rotten1spoiled
    Report Abuse
    rotten1spoiled - October 11, 2012 8:55 pm
    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
  8. FlamingLiberal1
    Report Abuse
    FlamingLiberal1 - October 11, 2012 9:17 am
    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.

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters. If you receive an error after submitting a comment, please contact us.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps:

    1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

    2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

    3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

    4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

    5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

    6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

    7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

    8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

    9. Don't write a novel. If your comment is longer than the article you're commenting on, you might want to cut it down a bit. Lengthy comments will likely be removed.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick