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Revered Beverly Hills Restaurant Urasawa Under Investigation For Labor Practices

A plate of random sashimi, since Urasawa doesn't allow photography (Photo byKevin Dooley on Flickr)
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Urasawa has always been one of those Holy Grail restaurants that we've sworn we'd dine at the day we "made it." (Or switched to a career in finance. You can imagine that on a journalist's budget, dropping over a grand on a meal for two might seem slightly unattainable.) But recent news that the Beverly Hills restaurant is under investigation by the California Labor Department for denying kitchen staff overtime pay and forbidding them from taking breaks has left us with a bad taste in our mouths -- and feeling a little bit better that that moment hasn't yet arrived.

Things at the restaurant seem pretty bad, especially considering the giant wads of money that were being thrown at the chef/owner for his Japanese cuisine.

Says the New York Times:

The chef and owner, Hiroyuki Urasawa, is battling state and civil claims that he withheld tens of thousands of dollars in wages and overtime from workers. One former employee who left the restaurant last year said he resorted to urinating in the sink meant for cleaning mops after being told the men’s restroom was for customers only during business hours.
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For a man who seems to be all about the rules (he doesn't allow photography in the restaurant, food must be eaten within 10 seconds of it being dropped at the table, and no itemized bills are allowed to be brought outside of the restaurant), Urasawa seems to be skirting the ones that are most important to the well-being of his staff, and perhaps eventually, his restaurant.

In addition to the aforementioned offensiveness, former employees are claiming that. much like the case of Amy's Baking Company and countless other restaurants throughout the country, their tips at the Beverly Hills restaurant were withheld. This is hardly uncommon practice, unfortunately. A study conducted by the Labor Center at the UCLA found that there was an average of $26 million worth of wage violations each week in Los Angeles alone.

So while Urasawa is hardly the only one breaking the rules, it certainly does shed light on an issue that's plaguing the industry here.