Owner Of Recently-Closed Hoxton Manor Accused Of Non-Payment Of Wages And Misuse Of Tips By Several Former Employees

December 11, 2023

Hoxton Manor, a once-vibrant establishment in San Diego's North Park, recently closed its doors after a two-year stint. Since its closure, troubling allegations involving unpaid final wages to some employees and the mishandling of gratuity during the restaurant's operational period have surfaced. 

In 2021, Rob Jones, co-founder of the esteemed Dija Mara in Oceanside, unceremoniously parted ways with his North County Balinese-inspired California restaurant and embarked on a solo venture. He took over the 2,480 square-foot space previously occupied by North Park Breakfast Company at 3131 University Avenue in San Diego's North Park to establish Hoxton Manor. This two-story bar and restaurant offered a fusion menu blending Southeast Asian flavors with a Californian twist. However, in early November 2023, after just over two years of operation, Hoxton Manor bid farewell, making way for Valle de Guadalupe chef Drew Deckman's new venture, Watershed, to inhabit the space beginning next year.

We recently received messages from former employees of Hoxton Manor who have alleged that several staff members have not received their final wages. It is further reported that the restaurant's owner may have left the country.

"So I never got a final paycheck from Hoxton, nor did anyone else," read the first forwarded message from a person purporting to be a former Hoxton Manor employee. "Our checks included all of our cc tips. Homeboy took off to Thailand."

Following the receipt of this message, we reached out to several other former Hoxton Manor employees to check the veracity of the initial allegation. Others confirmed they had not received their final wages.

"I worked there for its final 2 months," wrote a former Hoxton Manor employee who wishes to remain anonymous. "I have talked to another employee who has talked to a couple others and none of us have received our final checks. Not only wages, but were to include all of our credit card tips as well."

We also were placed in contact with a former kitchen member at Hoxton Manor, who shared his dismay:

"Honestly I'm very bummed about this whole situation. I'm also missing about a whole weeks pay, my check stub isn't accurate. There were also people who 'helped' and were getting paid under the table. As for them there is no documentation of them ever needing to get paid."

A third former staff member, commenting on their experience, stated, "I did work at Hoxton, but had left months before it closed. I did, however, work a few miscellaneous days within the last payment period, and hadn't received my check on time (this was a continual issue, as many employees received their checks late during the entire year that I worked there). I had applied pressure to receive my check and eventually got my pay. I have heard that other employees have yet to receive their pay for the final pay period. Beyond this, I had heard that tip money received via debit/credit was used by the owner to cover utility costs. I never saw the accounting and therefore can not confirm, but I did feel as though my paychecks were extremely light considering the tips I was receiving. The content of my pay was obfuscated by the fact that the restaurant operated with a tip pooling system."

"The first issue at Hoxton was transparency with how the tips were being distributed," wrote a fourth former Hoxton Manor staff member. "Many on the staff believed they were not receiving what they should have been. There was an automatic gratuity of 18% and this portion of the money was in discrepancy. Our second to last pay period had our final week included (3 weeks total ) but nobody was made aware of this, no statement was issued at all. On top of this we haven't received any pay stubs for the last pay period.  Also when staff realized checks had not come in for the last pay period, the owner took a lengthy amount of time to address the problem."

Not all employees contacted alleged non-payment of wages.

"I worked for Mr. Jones for two years and always received payment for my time," explained a former employee of Hoxton Manor. "I was also given my last payment after Hoxton closed and my coworkers have also said the same. I appreciate you reaching out and while I can't speak for everyone, I haven't become aware of any failure of obligations on part of Mr. Jones."

Another former Hoxton Manor employee also scoffed at the accusations of non-payment: "These allegations are ridiculous, he DID pay us our final wages. Anyone saying otherwise is lying. I went over my final paystub and it was all there.He didn’t “abscond” anywhere, he gave us plenty of notice that we were closing, and we knew exactly when we would be closing. He paid us everything, it isn’t that difficult to figure out if one just looks at their paystub.

According to some of the ex-employees contacted and forwarded texts supposedly between ownership and staff, Hoxton Manor's "auto-gratuity" of 18% seemingly functioned more as a surcharge with the bulk of the funds allocated to cover business expenses and pay back of the house staff rather than going to front of the house employees. Allegedly, the designation of the 18% fee on customer receipts transitioned from "auto-gratuity" to "service fee" earlier this year after concerns regarding improper disbursement of payments were raised by a former manager, who alleges she was subsequently terminated after bringing the issue to ownership's attention.

The former manager, Veronica, had an attorney send a letter to Hoxton Manor ownership earlier this year outlining her legal claims against him. Alleged claims include wrongful termination, retaliatory termination, and illegal wage and hour practices, the background of which is outlined below:

"On February 2, 2023, [Veronica] complained to you about the restaurant’s policy and practice of adding an 18% 'auto gratuity' on every customer's check and then keeping that amount from the service staff. [Veronica] informed you that gratuities are the property of the person for whom they are left and must be distributed to the employees. You explained to [Veronica] that you implemented this practice so as to be able to pay a higher hourly wage to both the back of house (BOH) staff and the service staff, specifically calling upon the FOH staff to recognize the income disparity between front and back house staffers and "give up a little for the BOH." [Veronica], however, informed you that putting an auto gratuity on all the bills was misleading to the guests who believed they were actually leaving a tip and was not fair to the service staff for whom the gratuity was left, even if well intended. 
[Veronica] further complained to you that on January 28, 2023, the bar alone outsold the restaurant and turned in the most tips, but that the bartenders would not see most of that tip income. [Veronica], further explained and offered to teach you that instead of an auto-gratuity, you could impose a 3% surcharge, but only if clearly explained to the guest in writing on the menu itself. She additionally complained to you that her rent alone was $2,000 per month and that absent her tip income, she could not live off of $1,000 paychecks. She even went so far as to send you a discussion regarding the treatment of gratuities under the Labor Code that she had researched on the Internet. 
In response to her complaints, you sent [Veronica] a text message in which you state, 'Roni, it seems like you're miserable there. And you're causing me more problems than you're solving so let's call it a day.' [Veronica] responded, 'it legally says 'auto grat' on our bills, Rob...' In response, you confirmed [Veronica's] termination, stating, 'I appreciate your efforts and your help to date. It’s a shame we couldn't make this work.' And with that, [Veronica's] employment at Hoxton Manor came to an end."

We reached out to Hoxton Manor's founder Rob Jones for comment in preparation of this article. In addition to slewing multiple insults, he provided the following:

"All staff have been paid in full for every single minute they worked. I have never paid late and I have never paid short. It is very easy for my lawyers to prove this with time stamps (backed up by camera footage), paystubs and bank statements. If you print these lies, I will sue you."