Former Buzzy's employees left unpaid and emotionally drained
December 08, 2010
TILTON — After an arrest and several liquor license violations that include bootlegging and allegedly drinking on the job, Arthur "Buzzy" Buswell has sold his just-opened restaurant – but not before leaving several employees in the lurch.
Buzzy's Pub and Restaurant on Laconia Road in Tilton opened in September. Several former employees now say they invested their time and careers into what was billed as a "family-oriented restaurant" and a boost to employment in the region, but instead endured verbal and emotional abuse and did not get paid what is owed them.
Since the beginning of November, those who had been employed from the start, some even a month before the business officially opened, have left for a variety of reasons, one of which was a recurrent complaint of payroll not being met.
"He would disappear on pay day for as much as four or five days at a time and couldn't even be reached by phone," one former employee said on the condition of anonymity.
One bartender who asked to be known only as April said the hours she worked and the stress she endured was tremendous, made greater by the fact she was pregnant.
"He would feel my stomach and blow cigar smoke in my face all the time I was there. It really got to me," she said.
April said she was told to lie to the Liquor Commission and Labor Board when they came in and was ordered to serve specific customers even though they were intoxicated.
"I had to tell the Labor Board he paid all of us and tell the Liquor Commission I didn't know where the alcohol (stored upstairs and in the basement) came from," she said.
One night April found herself scrubbing a bathroom for two hours after a customer was allowed to drink until he vomited all over the room.
"We weren't allowed to shut off his friends or we'd be fired," she said.
April was also left alone to close the business each night, depositing the cash on his desk and walking out into a dark, vacant parking lot.
The greater fear for employees though was in losing much needed jobs. One said he was afraid quitting would mean he wouldn't receive the months of pay he had earned. Others were single moms or had relocated to the area in order to take what they felt was a generous offer for a great job.
The restaurant "officially" opened on Sept. 7 but these employees say that was not the case. Buswell told them he had raced to Concord on Friday and picked up his liquor license after getting approved by the fire department for occupancy. That, these employees now say, was later revealed not to be the case. The license was actually not obtained until the Tuesday after Labor Day.
"We opened on the Friday of Labor Day weekend and were told it was only for private parties but not to turn away anyone from the public if they walked in," one employee said. "We were all at risk at risk of facing fines and we didn't even know it at the time."
The real trouble began when beer and food distributors were eventually not getting paid and refused to deliver any more goods to the restaurant. After that, employees say "Buzzy" began stopping at local stores to purchase beer and bought food at wholesale outlets like BJ's.
Sandra, who worked in the kitchen, said she had a hard time coming up with the required number of entrees needed to remain open with a liquor license.
"How many ways can you serve a burger? That's what I had to do when they stopped delivering the seafood and everything else on the menu," she said.
The final straw came after a series of events in late October. One employee was "screamed at," cursed at and "dragged out back" on a busy Friday evening in front of all the customers.
On Nov. 5, a liquor commissioner arrived for a spot inspection and found several violations, including bootleg alcohol, refilled bottles and Buswell allegedly drinking on the job. When the inspector tried to gain entry to the office for his inspection, the employees witnessed Buswell push him.
Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier confirmed that Buswell was arrested Nov. 5 on three counts: obstructing government administration, interfering with a liquor officer and resisting arrest or detention. On the findings of bootlegging, refilling bottles and drinking on the job he was fined by the commission.
At that point, Domenic Canzano, one of many investors in the establishment, came in and took control.
Canzano said he became a partner with Buswell Nov. 11, changing the name to Nick and Buzzy's Restaurant and Pub. When Canzano discovered how poorly the business was being run, he eventually took over and bought the entire business from Buswell.
"The restaurant had been black listed from deliveries, the lights were about to be shut off and the doors were about to be locked," said Canzano.
He said he got busy paying off past due bills and setting things right again at the restaurant. Some employees received back wages but Canzano said his attorney eventually advised him those financial matters were not his legal concern and past employees should pursue Buswell for their wages.
"I feel deeply sorry about everyone prior to Nov. 11 but I can't be held responsible for everything that happened before that time. If I didn't step in there are 15 people here who would have been unemployed today," Canzano said.
He has since begun a new corporation, changed the menu and was expected to hang a new sign out front, renaming the business "Canzano's Restaurant and Pub," offering Italian cuisine. New management has been set in place and, most of all, he stressed, Buswell is no longer involved in the business.
"It's going to be a real nice place and I have some great dishes we're now offering, and I think people are going to like it," he said.
In the meantime, those still owed money are not about to give up their fight. Sandra has filed sexual harassment charges against the former owner and others are seeking civil action. One mother said she is owed more than $1,000 and will not give up on it.
"This is not about revenge. It's about getting what I worked hard for, what I earned. I just want to feed my kids and pay my bills. I don't want to ever see anyone else go through something like this," she said.