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Exotic dancers’ suit over low pay and tips goes to arbitration
By Daniel Tepfer and Frank Juliano
Published: January 17, 2016
MILFORD — Six dancers at a local strip club say they are just looking for a fair shake.
But they claim the owner of Keepers Gentlemen’s Club, former Genovese family crime figure Gus Curcio, is denying them a piece of the action.
In a lawsuit filed in state Superior Court, the dancers, Sugeily Ortiz of Stratford, Crystal Horrocks of New Haven, Zuleyma Bella Lopez of Branford,Jacquelyne Green of Bristol, Dina Danielle Caviello of Wolcott and Yaritza Reyes of New York, claim they are not being paid a living wage.
“Defendants have unjustly and unlawfully enriched themselves at the expense of their employees by denying the named plaintiffs and other similarly situated class members their earned minimum wages, overtime pay and full retention of their gratuities ... and by charging the plaintiffs fees to work and arbitrarily and impermissably subjecting them to various fines in violation of their lawful employment contracts and applicable statutory and common law,” the lawsuit states.
The dancers’ lawyer did not return calls and emails for comment Tuesday. The dancers claim Keepers has annual gross sales of $500,000, that they have worked at least 40 hours a week at the club for several years and have to pay a “house fee” and a separate fee to the disc jockey from each paycheck.
They also argue in their suit they are not paid overtime after working 40 hours in any week, and are fined for breaking any of the club rules.
Lawyer Stephen Bellis, who represents the director and president of Keepers, Joseph Regensburger, argued Tuesday that the dancers are independent contractors and therefore not entitled to the same benefits as employees. He said they signed a contract to that effect.
“The issue in the lawsuit is really about whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor,” said Bellis, who also teaches business law. “This is not anything different than we see in any other business. They get tips and come and go as they want.”
A judge recently agreed to let an independent arbitrator hear the dispute.
“The judge ruled there is an arbitrator clause in their contract, so we will let an arbitrator decide the case,“ Bellis said.
Keepers is the first storefront in a commercial strip on busy Woodmont Road. Much of the inside resembles many of the sports bars in the area, with numerous large-screen TVs mounted on the walls.
But the handful of men bellying up to the bar Tuesday were not paying attention to the TVs. Their eyes were fixed on a young woman, lying on her back on a small stage with her feet in the air.
“I’m just here for a beer, I don’t know anything about that,” said one male patron when asked about the dancers’ lawsuit. He declined to give his name.
Regensburger is a longtime associate of Curcio and runs his businesses, including strip bars, restaurants and a development company. Curcio, of Stratford, has long been linked by federal prosecutors to the Genovese crime family. He has served federal prison time for loan sharking, extortion and obstruction of justice. Both men list a small house on Light Street in Stratford as their address. Neither could be reached for comment.
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