Court documents shed new light on Bread Factory closure

Court documents at the Santa Monica District Courthouse and accounts by former workers have revealed further details in the case of the Bread Factory's closure.

What emerges is a tale of alleged mismanagement and court proceedings that left Soo Jeong Pak, owner of the Bread Factory, owing Santa Monica College $74,758.21.

According to the official file on the case, The Bread Factory, which had been a staple of the SMC cafeteria for nearly 12 years, suddenly stopped paying rent sometime in early 2013. The signs had become apparent in October 2012 when Pak only paid a portion of the rental fee.

This development took place four years after the snack shop had signed an indefinite contract with the college in October 2008 and agreed to a month-to-month payment deal.

Pak was served a three day notice on June 17, 2013 by Director of Contracts and Event Services Charlie Yen. When Pak failed numerous times to pay the required fee for the space, SMC then took the matter to court.

A trial date was set for Jan. 6, 2014 but when Pak attempted a last minute bankruptcy filing, the court dismissed the attempt and the court date was actually sped up to December 12, 2013.

On Dec. 16, a judgement was reached by Judge Gerald Rosenberg and Pak was ordered to pay $56,224.92 in unpaid rent plus attorney's fees and court costs which ballooned to the amount of more than $74,000. The Bread Factory was ordered to evacuate the premises before SMC's Winter semester was to begin.

But the case of the sudden fall of the Bread Factory does not end there.

Allegations have began to surface from former student workers about unpaid wages. This has prompted the SMC Police Department to post signs on campus asking any unpaid Bread Factory employees to come forward and contact SMCPD.

SMC student Dennis Dougherty worked at the Bread Factory for three years.

"There were a lot of weird financial things that were going on, they were frivolous with money," alleged Dougherty.

He described a work environment where the cash register would always be mysteriously short on money. Tips were not kept by employees and were made to go around to make sure the amount in the register was balanced.

"A few of the managers would take money out of the registers. The worst was about two or three years ago when I was first starting and one of the managers took out $300 just for a bottle of champagne," Dougherty alleged. "The owner was aware."

Dougherty also acknowledged that he experienced sudden lapses in getting his check.

"Every so often there would be paydays where they would say 'oh we'll pay you next Friday,' then they would say 'oh we'll pay you next Tuesday,'" claimed Dougherty. "At one point I hadn't been paid for three or four months. They finally gave me a check for two hundred bucks."

Dougherty alleged that Pak and the managers would give him bizarre explanations for the lack of payment. At one point he was told there was no ink to make the checks.

He also claimed that employees who inquired about missing checks were encouraged by Pak to take as much food from the store as they wanted.

"It didn't really do much. This was with everyone, we had several people leave because of pay irregularities," he claimed. "When I started, you would get paid every two weeks, then progressively it got worse and worse where every two weeks we would occasionally get a paycheck."

Attempts to contact Pak through phone numbers made available in the court documents have yielded no answers. One number already has a new owner and while a voice message was left for the second available number, no call backs have been received.

At the time of the Bread Factory's eviction, Pak filed a lawsuit against SMC which means this case will continue in the courts for some time.

On March 10, there will be a new court hearing involving Pak who has decided to represent herself.

More updates to this story will be provided as new information comes to light.