‘Tiger King’ Director Under Fire After Laying Off Staff at His Restaurants During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Eric Goode is one of two co-creators of the Netflix docuseries Tiger King. (The other is Rebecca Chaiklin). The show has become a worldwide sensation–and yet Goode’s talents aren’t limited to television. He also owns restaurants, just one of the many businesses that has had to close during the coronavirus pandemic. Goode laid off the restaurant’s staff with little or no pay. Now his former employees are raising concerns that the wealthy businessman hasn’t done enough–especially since the success of Tiger King.

‘Tiger King’ director lays off restaurant staff amid coronavirus pandemic

Tiger King co-director
Eric Goode, President and CEO of the Turtle Conservancy attends the 2017 Turtle Ball in 2017 | Mike Pont/WireImage

BuzzFeed reported recently on the issues that one of the directors and executive producers on the hit Netflix show Tiger King is facing. Goode “is a New York artist turned entrepreneur and conservationist who owns several upscale hotels and restaurants in Manhattan.” Included in these properties are “the Bowery Hotel, the Jane Hotel, and the Waverly Inn,” they write.

But most of the piece focused on the staff from his restaurant B Bar and Grill in New York. The article calls B Bar “a fixture in the trendy NoHo neighborhood since 1994.”

Arturo Vasquez was, until recently, a chef for the restaurant. He worked there 22 years.

“At the least, leave me with compensation,” he said.

“Vasquez was one of roughly 70 waiters and cooks at the restaurant who were, like hospitality workers across the U.S., laid off last month when the restaurant shut its doors indefinitely due to the pandemic,” BuzzFeed wrote.

However, the workers weren’t let with much:

… four staff members at the restaurant told BuzzFeed News that unlike other wealthy hospitality leaders who have donated salaries and worked to fundraise for those suddenly out of work, they have heard nothing from Goode as he enjoys Hollywood attention. Goode, they say, has the wealth and cultural influence to help them at a time when they need it most.

Tiger King bb
A young tiger at the Wild Animal Sanctuary on April 1, 2020 in Kennesburg, Colorado. This animal is one of 45 tigers the sanctuary rescued from Joe Exotic’s Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Florida, the subject of the Netflix miniseries Tiger King | Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Could Eric Goode have done more for his employees?

A floor manager at the restaurant also stood up for his fellow employees. Luis Lugo called out Goode and his association with Tiger King specifically:

They have families, they have children, they have mortgages to pay, and they spent a lot of their life working for B Bar. You’re the director of Tiger King and you own the Jane Hotel and you’re not a small mom-and-pop shop that’s struggling. You’re someone that has the financial resources to make a difference.

Lugo says that Goode has “been profitable for so many years on the back of these people.” That’s why he believes they deserve more.

BuzzFeed News also pointed out that some owners are doing more for their employees. They reported:

Other hospitality leaders in New York are also working to fundraise. Dozens of prominent restaurants and companies banded together to form a group called … Relief Opportunity for All Restaurants which raised $500,000 in one week for workers.

Lugo wrote a “letter on behalf of colleagues to Goode on March 23, roughly a week after B Bar ceased operations.” In the letter, he requested sick pay for the employees for two weeks. The note read:

While we understand this pandemic discriminates against nobody and is affecting all of us, we urge you to use your position of power and offer at least 2 weeks of sick pay to all your employees.

The Netflix docuseries executive producer gets heat from staff

3 days after Lugo sent the letter, Tiger King creator Goode finally sent his own, laying the employees off.

“Please know that we are deeply sorry to have to take this action and wish you and your families the very best during this difficult time,” Goode’s letter read. While some staffers received a week of pay, others got nothing at all.

“Simply, they sent us home and they sent us an email saying we were dismissed,” Vasquez told BuzzFeed. “Nothing. Just thrown out on the street.”

Tiger King
Sir Richard Branson, Julian Sands, and Eric Goode in 2015 | Chance Yeh/WireImage

The Tiger King producer also wrote in his letter that he would “do what many in the hospitality industry are already doing and take immediate action with an appeal to our communities to help raise funds that will help our staff in the interim.” All B Bar employees have seen so far is a GoFundMe.

“There’s only $1,500 in it and they’ve done nothing,” a waiter told the news site. “The Goodes have set up no charities or fundraising for their employees.”

BuzzFeed News reports that it’s not clear at this point if B Bar and Grill, a source of employment for so many, for many years, will ever reopen.