The Pearl District gay bar Casey's bills itself as Portland's "premiere gay, lesbian and alternative nightclub complex" and opened last year amid a lot of excitement but a recent case reveals that Casey's wasn't paying some important bills -- its bartenders' paychecks. Last week, the Bureau of Labor and Industry found Casey's guilty of not paying two of its bartenders a combined $2,500 in wages.
Matt Stefanik mixed drinks at Casey's bar for three months last summer and early on had doubts about its finances. "That place was losing money left and right," Stefanik observed, having arrived back in Portland after co-owning a coffee shop in New York. Stefanik says Casey's owner, Karl Wilgus (who also runs the adjacent Eagle PDX leather bar) , would often give him a paycheck, then insist on cashing it immediately right there in the bar. Finally, in August Stefanik's paychecks totaling $1,600 bounced.
Here's Stefanik, with the bounced checks, across from Casey's steel upside-down triangle gaytini sign:
Stefanik says WIlgus wouldn't answer his phone calls, so the irate bartender sent him text messages along the lines of "you screwed me" and called him names on Myspace until finally filing a claim with the Bureau of Labor and Industry. Just last week, the Bureau found Wilgus filed a default judgment against the bar on behalf of Stefanik and another unpaid ex-bartender. After a year of paperwork, Stefanik is hoping he'll finally get paid.
Why didn't Casey's pay its bartenders? Wilgus hasn't yet returned a message left yesterday, but Stefanik thinks it's a sign that the bar is in the red and just doesn't have the money. In the meantime, Stefanik himself has gone into credit card debt trying to pay off the bills without his hard-earned dollars. He's also left the bartending life and now works at the library, whose checks have yet to bounce.