New York restaurant SALT Bae has been hit by four lawsuits from disgruntled employees and customers, a major blow to its empire, The Sun was able to reveal.
The flamboyant Turk is known for his signature sprinkling of salt on ridiculously expensive gold-plated steaks — at more than 20 restaurants around the world.
But Salt Bae’s luxury restaurants have been plagued by multiple lawsuits — over tip confiscation, sexual and racial discrimination, and labor law violations.
And the steakhouse Nusr-Et Midtwon, owned by the showman, whose real name is Nusret Gökçe, has faced four lawsuits – which have not been reported before.
Three of the cases have been resolved and the fourth is pending.
Restroom attendant Cattysha Flores has worked at Nusr-Et Midtown Steakhouse since May 2019 and filed her lawsuit in July 2021.
She claims the policy for staff is “not to complain about customers,” although she was once asked by a male customer to “show her feet.”
She was reportedly told to comply, as he “is known to have tipped other female employees $100 if they complied.”
Flores was also allegedly approached by a drunk customer who “grabbed” her left arm and demanded, “Kiss me, kiss me, why don’t you kiss me?”
Instead of letting the manager support him, he reportedly gave the customer a “high five” and said to Flores, “Oh, he’s just drunk.”
Flores claims she called the police twice about the incident and “the same customer.” [had] harassed other employees”.
But she allegedly said that Nusret management told them it was “no big deal”.
Gökçe was reportedly at the restaurant when this all happened, but “did not take any remedial action to remedy the situation,” “condoning” his management’s behavior.
Flores also claimed that her supervisor asked a fellow cleaner why “his people” wear “those things on their heads” — meaning a durag hat.
The restaurant’s lawyers denied the allegations in court documents.
The lawsuit was forced to settle by a judge last year and then dropped in April.
The company has managed to transfer practically all complaints against them by former employees to arbitration proceedings.
They state that they have all signed similar agreements that “any claim that the employee may have or may have had against the employer or any of its officers, directors, supervisors, managers, employees or agents” will be arbitrated.
But a lawsuit that’s still in court was filed in August last year by Palestinian-born Taher Ali, who was hired in September 2018 as executive director of the midtown New York restaurant.
He claims to have been discriminated against as he was the only non-Turkish manager and often had to work longer hours than other managers without breaks, saying, “You are not one of us.”
According to court documents, Ali was not allowed to meet Gökçe “because he does not know that a Palestinian runs the restaurant.”
He also claims that Turkish employees received a bigger share of the tip pool and non-Turks were often ignored.
When Ali brought up other complaints from employees, his manager reportedly told him that “they can learn Turkish if they want to understand what we’re saying.”
He was demoted to a food runner before being fired “because he wasn’t one of us” and “cared too much about Americans and we’re here to make money,” the lawsuit continues.
The company rejected all claims against the company.
At the same restaurant, customer Grecy Ramos also filed a lawsuit in August 2022, accusing a waiter of “pouring scalding hot water on the plaintiff’s body, resulting in significant burns.”
The lawsuit said Ramos was seeking damages for “continued serious, serious and permanent personal injury.”
In court documents, Nusret Steakhouse’s attorneys, Sjoquist & Baer, denied the allegations.
The case was dropped in July last year for unknown reasons.
In another unreported case, blind customer Windy Lucius reached a settlement after filing a lawsuit in Florida federal court alleging that the site was inaccessible to blind people and violated the Disability Act.
Court documents said Lucius had reached an agreement to settle the claims.
Meanwhile, the restaurant has ongoing legal battles with former Nusr-et Steakhouse New York employees Elizabeth Cruz and Angelo Maher, both of whom filed lawsuits in November 2021.
Bartender Cruz said she was humiliated when a manager ordered her to wear a “short skirt, heels and a revealing top” on her first day.
Latino waiter Maher claimed in another lawsuit that he was called a “Spanish bastard” by a colleague and that the steakhouse was a site of “physical intimidation and discriminatory intimidation against non-Turkish employees.”
The restaurant denied the allegations.
He also claimed he was forced to lie to customers that the meat was halal – which is allowed in Islam – “when that wasn’t true”.
Their lawsuits continue.
A Nusr-Et spokesman told The Sun: “Most of the cases are closed and we cannot comment on cases that have been settled.”
“Only one of the cases is active and we are not commenting on pending litigation.”
This comes after Salt Bae closed its Salt Bae Burger joint in New York, which has been dubbed “the worst restaurant” in the city.
The move was to the same address as the Nusr-Et steakhouse chain in New York.
The restaurant charged $99 for a gold-flecked milkshake, $100 for a gold burger, and sparked outrage for offering a free veggie “damenburger” in a pink bun to women-only.
The Sun is able to reveal that the 39-year-old has ditched his obscene prices after receiving hundreds of bad reviews and is now offering a $39 three-course lunch menu in all seven of his US stores.