It looks like those complaints from former Chickie's & Pete's employees regarding "Pete's Tax" has gone big time, and now includes an investigation by the Department of Labor for serious pay violations. And, while owner Pete Ciarrocchi and his representation are wholeheartedly denying any wrongdoing, they've completely overhauled their pay practices and have started sending out checks—some of which are in the thousands of dollars—to current and former employees to "fix" mistakes from a "faulty" payroll system.
One of the lawsuits that's being leveled against Ciarrocchi states that at the end of each shift, employees had to pay 2%-4% gross cash and credit sales into a tip pool known as "Pete's Tax." That pool of cash went to cover credit card fees and tips for busboys. In some cases it just disappeared into thin air. But, here's the best part: If employees didn't earn enough in cash tips to cover "Pete's tax," they were forced to withdraw it from a cash machine on the spot or possibly face firing. Wow.
While Chickie's & Pete's has been a source of entertainment and delicious crabs for many Philadelphians for 25 years, they were always pretty dickish about legally threatening tiny bars and restaurants who used the word "Crab Fries" on their menu. Seems like this might be a little bit of karmic payback for years of assholish behavior.