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This Arts District Michelin-Starred Bistro Is Being Sued For Withholding Tips and Other Labor Violations

In their lawsuit, Karla Zavala and Irene Park allege that the owners of Camphor “engaged in a systematic pattern of wage and hour abuse towards Plaintiffs and other current and former” employees.

2:59 PM PST on January 12, 2024

Screenshot from Camphor's Instagram page.

Two servers who recently worked for Camphor, a Michelin-starred French bistro in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District, are suing the restaurant’s owners for failing to distribute tips, paying workers with “bad checks or insufficient funds,” not paying overtime, and other labor violations, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court obtained by L.A. TACO.

In their lawsuit, Karla Zavala and Irene Park allege that the owners of Camphor “engaged in a systematic pattern of wage and hour abuse towards Plaintiffs and other current and former” employees.

According to their complaint, Zavala and Park were hired as servers in December 2022. As of the end of last year, Zavala still worked for Camphor, while Park “was forced to resign her position in August 2023 after being subjected to the unlawful employment practices” alleged in the lawsuit.

Both Zavala and Park received hourly wages between $16 and $17, plus a portion of tips, according to their complaint.

Zavala and Park are taking action on behalf of themselves and “all others” who were similarly impacted. Their lawsuit is seeking class-action status.

Camphor is a modern French bistro located in the Arts District co-founded by Cyrus Batchan, the reclusive owner of Lock & Key bar, who was once described as the “Gatsby of Koreatown.” Batchan was identified as "DOE 1" in a court filing reviewed by L.A. TACO.

In addition to being a fan of French food and a restaurateur, Batchan is also a licensed attorney.

Inspired by classic French cuisine and the Southeast Asian backgrounds of the restaurant’s co-executive chefs, Camphor brings together veteran chefs, Max Boonthanakit and Lijo George to make high-end French dining more casual.

A year after opening, Camphor received a coveted Michelin star in 2023 for their “bubbling hot rigatoni stuffed with artichokes, Swiss chard, and Comté” cheese, as well as a cognac cream-infused steak au poivre and deconstructed seasonal fruit tart.

At Camphor, bread and butter will run you $15. At the same time, a cheeseburger and fries cost nearly $40. In the past, the restaurant has applied a “service charge” to all bills.

The owners of Camphor did not respond to a request for comment sent via email as of publishing.

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