WICKER PARK — A war of words broke out Monday over the closing of Santullo's, a popular Wicker Park pizza spot, with workers saying they walked off the job and the owner saying it's just a renovation.
Sean Mulroney, owner of the restaurant at 1943 W. North Ave. in Wicker Park's Flat Iron Arts Association building, acknowledged he needs to hire new workers but pointed to a renovation as the cause of the closure.
But his longtime kitchen manager, Keith Buzzard, said workers walked off the job last month because of problems getting paid and other issues, including what he said was faulty equipment that left him with facial burns last summer.
"The reason it closed was because everyone quit. It was terrible," said Buzzard, one of eight workers at the pizzeria known for New York-style pizza slices and sandwiches.
Doris Carroll, another Santullo's worker, said she resigned abruptly as well.
"Once people started saying they were not coming back in, those still working didn't want to do twice the work. Finally, enough people had left," Carroll said.
Buzzard began working at Santullo's on July 1, 2008. He said problems started about a year-and-a-half ago and worsened in the past six months, when "getting paid was like pulling teeth."
"Santullo's was closed in order to remodel and to hire new staff," Mulroney said in a statement to DNAinfo. "After over 12 years, a facelift is necessary.
"There were substantial discrepancies in the number of hours worked claimed by some staff and that actually worked. Additionally, Santullo's was experiencing ongoing loss of product and beer inventory. I also discovered that some employees were staying after hours and consuming alcoholic beverages. Santullo's has reviewed all hours claimed and those employees who are due additional compensation will be paid in full," Mulroney said.
"We are excited about reopening an working with a well trained dedicated staff," he added.
Though Santullo's was scheduled to reopen in mid-February, there are no signs of remodeling as of Monday and no renovation permits issued.
Mulroney said on Monday that Santullo's hopes to reopen in March.
"We're doing a full cleaning, replacing kitchen equipment and recovering the booths," Mulroney said.
A spokesman for Bob Berger, Santullo's landlord, said Berger is scheduling a meeting with Mulroney and hopes to have more information on what is going on soon.
When reached by DNAinfo last month, Berger said he was not aware of a remodeling.
"Unfortunately, we are not sure what is going on with [Santullo's]," Berger said.