It’s hard to be fair and balanced when you’ve only heard one side of the story…
Impossible, in fact. That said, there’s been no shortage of piling on in the soap opera surrounding vaunted Plaza jazz club Jardine’s going dark this past week. Especially with employees flooding the blogosphere with tales of being fired, wronged and any number of other sensational crimes against humanity.
And to a certain extent, that’s only fair.
People have every right to air their grievances and readers and television viewers have every right to draw whatever conclusions they want having heard those complaints. Unfortunately, in the absence of Jardine’s side of the story, clearly there’s been a rush to judgement based on but a single side side of the story having been told.
"There’s always more to a story than there appears to be," says Westport businessman Bill Nigro. "And nobody’s heard Beena’s side of it yet – there’s always two sides to every story. I just wish everybody luck on getting back in control of their future – everybody – both sides."
And so now, the rest of the story…
Let me start by saying that for most of the past week I’ve been pretty much as in the dark as anybody. I was able to speak at length with Jardine’s head bartender prior to my first post reporting that the club had closed. And in that conversation, many of the details that he gave me match those I got today after finally talking at length with Jardine’s owner Beena Raja.
My interest obviously – apart from the news – was and continues to be that KC Confidential had made a business deal to hold our Christmas party at Jardine’s, an event that was paid for up front. And while we can afford to take the hit, I wanted to know in advance, so we could move the party somewhere else if we had to.
While I was able to get those assurances, under the circumstances it was hardly comforting.
Now on with the story.
Without directly quoting the Jardine’s staffer or owner, here’s the way things went down.
For the past couple months, Jardine’s owner had decided to stay away from the club at night while she sorted out personal issues, away from the temptations that come with owning a nightclub. Working by day, Raja left things in the hands of the staff at night. However she began to notice certain irregularities such as larger than normal quantities of staff-ordered liquors like Jameson Irish Whiskey and Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon being taken into inventory then disappearing.
On the night before Thanksgiving – after Dave Stephens show earlier – Raja returned to the club at 4 a.m. with her stylist to retieve his car and discovered three members of Jardine’s serving staff locked in the club, drinking after hours. That’s 4 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, to be clear. This I also confirmed with Jardine’s bartender.
On top of that, Raja noticed that no money had been placed in the jar at the bar where employees are supposed to pay cash for their drinks.
As none of the servers were entrusted with door keys to lock up, she could only conclude that someone in management had given them the keys since they unlocked the door to let her in. Later that same day, on Thanksgiving, she quietly changed the locks without letting any of Jardine’s keyed employees know or giving them new keys.
That same day, Jardine’s manager/chef resigned as manager and asked to remain on as chef.
From that point on, Raja had trust issues.
Business continued as usual, except she started working nights again and keeping a closer watch on things and requiring the staff to leave at the end of their shift instead of allowing them to stay at the club for their customary free after work drink.
The storm clouds had begun to gather. The club continued on, business as usual through the weekend and the Karrin Allyson shows on Monday and Tuesday. Which brings us to D Day, Wednesday, November 30th.
That’s the day all heck broke out and Raja decided to call a spade a spade.
That’s also the day the former manager/chef turned in his letter of resignation. Raja then decided to close that night and have the some of the senior staff clean and organize the kitchen and bar. She cancelled the band that was to have played that night earlier that day.
The next day, Thursday, the Sons of Brasil were scheduled to play and Raja had hired a new cook to replace the now-former chef/manager. Three other Jardine’s staffers who’d been hired by the former manager came in and were asked where their loyalties lay. Based upon their answers, two of them were fired and the third quit.
That left Raja, her new cook and a server applicant to run the show. When another Jardine’s server showed up later, he was asked to train the new server but he refused. He then informed Raja that he would not leave the premises – even though he had not been asked to – and invited her to call the police. Which she did, but before the police could arrive, he walked out the back door.
From that point on nobody else was fired at Jardine’s – just the two staffers – a cook and a bartender.
When the Sons of Brasil arrived, Raja told them what had happened, including that one of the bandmembers’s son, the server, had just stormed out. She asked them what they wanted to do and offered to stay open with Raja tending the bar. They went outside to discuss matters and decided not to play that night.
Jardine’s remained open until 11 p.m. offering customers dinner and drinks but no customers elected to stay. That was the night Raja put the closed for repairs sign up before she went home.
Raja planned to be open for Dave Stephens holiday show the next day, Friday. The sound man was at the club and ready to put the show on. But when none of the servers showed up for work, she had no choice but to cancel Stephens show.
From there things spun wildly out of control with Raja unwisely chosing not to speak with any media, including KC Confidential. Her plan was to hire a new staff, reopen and move forward the following week if possible.
Unfortunately for the club, that’s when disgruntled staffers unloaded on local television news and sites like KC Confidential and dropped the hammer on her.
The rest is history. Almost.
At this stage of the game – Raja’s reputation smeared and her side of the story nowhere to be found – she was more-or-less hung out to dry. She freely admits, the wiser course would have been to speak to the press and try to straighten things out. But it was already too late – far too late.
Raja has hired a new staff, which are being trained and she’s going about the task of mending fences with musicians shell shocked by the uncertainty and the stories being circulated on the Internet by unnamed sources.
"I do feel bad for the musicians," Raja says. "They didn’t do anything. With luck we’ll be back on track and open for business by sometime next week."
It won’t be easy losing 10 days revenue.
But Raja says that the staffers that were fired along with those who resigned, walked out or failed to show up for work will be paid in full including tips. As will Dave Stephens’ $1,500 fee for his band’s two shows the night before Thanksgiving. Stephens check failed to clear – not because it was cancelled – but because Jardine’s account was restricted to avoid the possibility of checks being written by the former general manager.
Raja says she has since assured Stephens that he will be reissued a new check.