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Swim Deck owners say they intend to pay former employees

The owners of a new Bay Street business say they are working to resolve issues surrounding their now-shuttered maritime-themed pub in Chehalis.

Dave Tagart and Stacy Bronson, who opened the similarly themed Swim Deck in June, and closed the Devilfish Public House at 289 NW Chehalis Ave., both acknowledged that they owe their former employees $3,200 during an interview Tuesday with local media.

Matthew Erlich, who works in public affairs for the Department of Labor & Industries, said L&I has three wage complaints against the Devilfish in its system. He said one has been closed because it was paid.

According to a July 11 article in The (Centralia) Chronicle, Richelle George said her boyfriend, Matt Logan, who worked at the Devilfish from October 2013 to May, still has not received his final pay from the time he gave notice.

“We’re still fighting to get his final paycheck,” she told the Chronicle. “They flat out refuse to give him his final check. We’re going to take them to small claims court.”

The Devilfish had five employees and Bronson said she intends to pay them as soon as possible. When asked if she has a specific date in mind, Bronson said she is hopeful that will occur within the next month, but she said that is dependent on the performance of the Swim Deck. Tagart said they also have sold furniture from the Devilfish and have other items listed on eBay and Craigslist.

“Those proceeds will go back to picking up the lost revenue that I owe the employees — and they’re aware of that,” he said. “They were notified of that.”

Bronson said the decision to close the Devilfish was made June 19. The couple showed a picture of construction on the street with a road closed sign.

“Up until the last days, I still believed I could pull the Devilfish upright,” Bronson said in a text to employees. “Then when I saw the street and knew we would not have income all summer, I had to take the difficult road and close to sell off all assets in order to get the final obligations paid. The [dive shop] helmets and all other notable stuff is on eBay and I will get you paid. It never was my intention to do otherwise even though Dave and I feel as those some of you did take advantage.”

Bronson said the latter statement was in regard to a lack of upkeep while she and Tagart were in Port Orchard. She said some employees also told her construction was not affecting business in order to preserve their paychecks.

Both said they also need to invest their time into making sure the Swim Deck opened by summer. Bronson said the location required much more work than they anticipated because of rot and other issues.

“All of the proceeds of that business went into the Devilfish and now into the Swim Deck,” said Bronson, referring to the dive shop Tagart sold in fall 2012. “There wasn’t a dime spent from the Devilfish into the Swim Deck, as people like to assume. People think we live high on the hog, but the truth is Dave and I lost a house, all of our assets ... to these businesses to make them work.”

Tagart and Bronson said they initially thought about opening a pub in Tacoma, but in 2007 visited Lewis County and loved the concept of helping to revitalize the community after the December flood ravaged the area. Both called it a mistake.

“We realized it was too small of a community,” Bronson said. “There wasn’t enough people that went out to eat. It was a tactical error. We had this 3,800-square-foot facility and nobody in it.”

Don Portnoy, who owns the building the Devilfish resided in, told the Chronicle he tried to work with Tagart and Bronson. He would not specify how much he is owed, but said he is considering his legal options.

“I want the space back,” Portnoy told the Chronicle.

Both Tagart and Bronson said they do not owe Portnoy money because he was paid first and last month’s rent when they leased the building. Tagart said they also upgraded the building and left fixtures, such as the bar top, coolers and kitchen facilities, intact.

Facebook pages for both the Devilfish and Swim Deck recently were closed, which both said was related to negative comments left by former employees.

“I don’t need them slamming me, slamming me, slamming me when I’m putting in 16 hours a day,” Bronson said. “I don’t have cable at my house. I don’t have a phone at my house. I’m going to shut it down until I get them paid off.”

She said the couple was cash strapped to the point that they reduced coverage of their vehicle before it was stolen while parked near the Swim Deck. While the vehicle was recovered, Bronson said it sustained significant damage during the week it was missing.

“They repainted it,” Bronson said. “They tore all of the electrical out of it probably because the little beepers were going off all of the time. The windows are all broken.”

In a similar matter, Bronson said the Devilfish was too broken to fix.

“We’ve got to stop the hemorrhaging,” Bronson said she repeatedly told herself. “We were more and more and more in debt down there. We couldn’t get it to stop.”

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