Monday, September 8, 2008
Help Me Howard: Pizza Parlor
They were employees who went into a restaurant after hours and had a late night snack, or they were employees who broke the law on camera and should have been arrested. Two points of view from two sides, and now one side is calling Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser for help.
WSVN -- In a way it is remarkable that two people can see one thing two completely different ways. One set of eyes from the Ortas, the owners of NYPD Pizza in Pembroke Pines.
Luis Orta, NYPD Pizza owner: "They should have been arrested."
The eyes for the other side: Jessica, their former restaurant manager.
Jessica Loria: "I didn't have an intent to hurt her or hurt her business."
Both sides have their views, now you get yours thanks to surveillance video of the incident. As we roll, the tape shows Jessica, who had a key, bringing three co-workers and two of their friends into the pizza parlor at one in the morning.
Jessica Loria: "We were going to go in there just to use the restroom and come out, but after we came out of the restroom, we were a little bit hungry, and we decided to make a quick snack."
According to Jessica, they fried 10 chicken wings worth $7.41.
Jessica Loria: "After we ate it, we cleaned up and left."
That's how she sees it. Now let's look at the tape through Luis's eyes.
Luis Orta: "And they decided to throw a party and have some free food, and they brought people that were not our employees. They ate a lot, you'll see on the video, everyone had a plate, and there was six people eating plenty of chicken wings."
Luis also says the girls and their friends knew they shouldn't be there, making sure no one spotted them. When Luis and Linda saw the tape the next day they were furious.
Luis Orta: "Morally, it's wrong. Morally, it's breaking in. Morally, it's stealing."
Not so from Jessica's point of view.
Jessica Loria: "We didn't steal them because we were going to pay for them"
The owners immediately fired the girls and asked Pembroke Pines Police to arrest them. Instead, an officer wrote that "no crime occurred" and just issued the girls a trespass warning. Jessica thought it was over, until the Ortas sent them a bill for the late night snack.
Jessica Loria: "A letter stating that it was a whole bill for renting her place out and having a party and $350 worth of food, which we didn't even touch. Total cost for our party was $1,050."
Luis Orta: "When we rent this place, I rent it for $200 an hour, so I billed them for that, use of property, and the food that they took, and it's all broken down in there."
And now Jessica says the owners are going overboard by promising to show the tape to any place they try to get another job.
Jessica Loria: "We weren't doing anything outrageous. We weren't seriously throwing a party. We weren't flipping off of tables. We weren't serving everybody. It was just 10 chicken wings."
Luis sees it differently.
Luis Orta: "They ate my food, they used my fryers, they used my electricity, my gas, my air conditioning, on my private property to throw a party."
Well, Howard, the police say it's not a crime but can the pizza parlor owners force them to pay $1,000 for their late night entry?
Howard Finkelstein: "The bill is way too high. First of all, the pizza parlor owners can't charge them for renting the restaurant. The only thing they can be billed for is the retail value of the food. As for whether or not it's a crime, it's a close call, and I think the police made the proper decision by not filing charges."
The 18-year-old Jessica just wants to put this youthful mistake behind her and get on with her life.
Jessica Loria: "I made a mistake, I honestly did, but I'm not a criminal."
But of course the other set of eyes see it another way.
Luis Orta: "To me, they never apologized seriously. None of these girls have shown any remorse whatsoever."
The girls are not off the hook yet. The owners have said they may take them to court, but it's not likely since it will cost more to sue than they will get.
Hungry for a key to unlock your problem? Don't be a chicken. Just wing it and call us. Our legal solutions aren't tasty, but they will leave you satisfied, or so we hope.
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