Hold on to your cafecito.
A new lawsuit alleges icky practices at Miami’s iconic Cuban restaurant Versailles, including roaches in the desserts, human hair in the food and broken glass in the croquetas.
The restaurant disputes the allegations.
In his lawsuit, former assistant manager Claudio Calderin says he complained to managers about the health-code violations and showed them photographs of the alleged infractions. But instead of acting on his concerns, his bosses transferred him to the night shift at sister eatery La Carreta on Bird Road, where Calderin says he also observed unhygienic conditions, according to a suit filed Monday in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. He later resigned.
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Calderin also said managers tried to force other employees into quitting by reducing their hours or changing their schedules.
He is seeking damages for lost pay and benefits and emotional distress.
Restaurant denies claims
The suit was filed against Versailles, La Carreta and the Valls Group. The Valls family owns the restaurants. Calderin’s attorney, Pelayo Duran, held a Thursday afternoon news conference in which he accused the family of “avoiding responsibility” for the restaurant conditions.
“Cockroaches in the flans, hairs, I mean, those are serious problems,” Duran said.
Duran has represented ex-employees in at least three other lawsuits against the Valls family. One suit, filed by a former female employee, Ayler Ayala, alleged that Felipe Valls Sr. pressured her into performing “extremely sordid” sexual acts and that the restaurant contained a private office that had a bed, bathroom, and “was littered with sex toys and sex paraphernalia.”
But 10 months ago, Ayala recanted her accusations and asked the court to drop her lawsuit. She signed an affidavit, stating that “I did not then, nor have I ever, engaged in sexual relations with Felipe Valls Sr.”
The Valls family, responding to this latest lawsuit, released a statement that said, in all caps, “THE COMPLAINT FILED BY MR. CALDERIN LACKS CREDIBILITY.”
Calderin’s claims are “wholly without merit,” the statement said, calling the lawsuit frivolous. The family noted that its restaurants had “never been implicated in any critical health issues” and that as manager it was Calderin’s job to keep the establishments clean.
The Miami New Times first reported the civil complaint.
State records show that restaurant inspectors found three “basic” violations at Versailles’ last inspection in November. An earlier inspection in September cited the Calle Ocho restaurant for five “high priority” violations, including keeping food at higher-than-allowed temperatures.
In 2014, two employees sued Versailles for illegal work practices, including discrimination over sexual orientation. That case — also filed by the same attorney, Duran — is ongoing.
Miami Herald staff writer Michael Vasquez contributed to this report.