WICKER PARK — Former workers from Bee & Tea, an Asian bao bun and bubble tea franchise that closed its Wicker Park and Lincoln Park storefronts in December and early January, respectively, say that they've not been paid for their last month on the job.
"The owners just ignore everyone and have not said anything to us," said Mercedes Daliege, a former general manager of Bee & Tea at 1843 W. North Ave., who says she's owed about $1,000.
But a company official told DNAinfo that it is trying to secure a loan to pay the former workers.
When Daliege was not paid on the 7th or 22nd of January — the days of the month that Bee & Tea usually paid employees — she, on behalf of 14 other workers, reached out to DNAinfo, which had reported on Bee & Tea's early beginnings and shuttering.
Daliege worked at Bea & Tea since its inception 17 months ago. Prior to that, she put in two years at Forever Yogurt, at 1924 W. North Ave., which is part of a worldwide chain with 30 locations owned by Bee & Tea's founder CEO Mandy Calara.
"It's been a very rough month to say the least," Daliege said.
Kristy Courtney, a Lakeview resident and DePaul University student, had worked at the Lincoln Park Bee & Tea at 818 W. Fullerton Ave. since it opened last March.
Owed for 47 hours of work, Courtney said she was was informed of Bee and Tea's Lincoln Park closure through an email at 4:43 p.m. on Jan. 7, the day before the store closed, about two weeks after the Wicker Park spot shuttered.
In a Jan. 7 staff email, a Bee & Tea customer care consultant told workers, "Additionally (unfortunately) we do not have enough funds in the account to pay you yet. I am very sorry about this, you deserve to be paid for the work you have done for us."
Courtney said she has called Bee & Tea's corporate office several times and exchanged emails about trying to get her pay but has had no success.
"I don't have any income now at all; it makes paying for meals and groceries a lot harder," Courtney said.
Alaine Zavala, who split her shifts between the Wicker Park and Lakeview stores, said she is "really struggling " and had to borrow money from a friend to pay her bills because she is owed $700 for 49 hours of work.
Based on a sign in the window of the shuttered Wicker Park store , Zavala said she thinks Bee & Tea could be reopening soon, but if that is true, she said she would be angry if the chain reopened without paying her.
Nancy Calara, a manager at Bee & Tea and wife of CEO Mandy Calara, said late Tuesday that Bee & Tea, despite a sign in its former Wicker Park window informing fans it will be "reopening soon nearby," has no plans of doing so.
Nancy Calara confirmed that 15 workers have not been paid for December.
"We are working on trying to get a loan to pay them. We have a lot of bills," Nancy Calara said.
When asked what the amount of the loan to satisfy payroll for December would be, Calara said she is trying to get a $5,000 loan.
None of the Forever Yogurt spots will be impacted by Bee & Tea's financial struggles, Nancy Calara said. The Forever Yogurt franchise is a separate operation from Bee & Tea.
"The Chicago market was not ready for bubble tea; it works out better in California. We did not get enough clientele to support the business," she said.
Aaron Wolfson, owner of Chicago Dog House, 816 W. Fullerton, which is a former Bee & Tea neighbor, said he "wasn't surprised" to see the concept come and go within a year.
"That's a hard location," Wolfson said.
Since Chicago Dog House opened in 2009, Wolfson said nothing has stayed in the former Bee & Tea spot for too long.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: