To the editor,
After reading Don Rose's review of Souk restaurant (May 8) we were infuriated at his blatant disregard for the facts concerning the business practices of Maher Chebaro, former owner of Tribal Grill.
While preparing his review of Chebaro's new restaurant, Rose contacted us on more than one occasion, inquiring as to the "mysterious circumstances" that led to the sudden closing of Tribal Grill. He requested documentation regarding what he later referred to as "an ongoing wage dispute with some of his former waitstaff," when in fact there is no ongoing dispute. In November 1997, the Illinois Department of Labor issued Chebaro a wage-payment demand with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for up to 30 days. He has simply refused to respond.
During the last conversation with Rose, he expressed reluctance to include these unpleasant facts in his review.
As professionals in the restaurant industry, we recognize that it is not in the nature of restaurant reviews to scratch beneath the surface of the dining experience, and we were quite surprised that a restaurant critic was initially interested in behind-the-scenes information that we, as servers, could provide.
We consider Rose's censorship a slap in the collective face of service professionals everywhere. It's too bad he stumbled upon facts so unpalatable he dare not include them in a review.
Perhaps Rose should consider investigative reporting. It might give him the freedom he needs to tell it like it is.
Don Rose replies:
The former waitstaff of the Tribal Grill made their case for back wages, and the Illinois Department of Labor has ordered Maher Chebaro to pay them. Chebaro admitted to me that he is in default on the judgment but has a complex explanation as to why the total amount he owes is less than the labor department ordered. My editors and I felt that though the full details of the dispute were not germane to a review of a different Chebaro-owned restaurant, it should at least be noted. That's called editorial judgment. Sorry the waitstaff views it as censorship.