Mucho Más, the splashy, much-anticipated Oak Street Mexican restaurant from chef Julio Machado and owner Shawn Toups, closed in late July, six months after opening, amid allegations by former employees that they had not received weeks’ worth of wages.
According to the former bar manager, Madeleine Dixon, the staff at Mucho Más walked out during their shifts on July 21, alleging they had not been paid for several weeks. While the restaurant has not been open since, according to employees, it didn’t announce the closure until two weeks later on August 6 on Facebook, at which point a new name and menu for the restaurant was said to be coming in a “few weeks.” Dixon, who has created a GoFundMe for staff awaiting payment, claims Toups owes unpaid wages to 11 employees averaging around $1,200 for each staff member.
Toups, who is also the owner of Lakeview Harbor, acknowledges that employees are owed “two weeks” of pay. He tells Eater he doesn’t have control over the Mucho Más social media accounts and didn’t personally post to Facebook on August 6 that it would be reopening with a new name and menu, but that he has talked to various people about new restaurants for the space, including two restaurants that were looking for second locations and an investor who was interested in another Lakeview Harbor.
Still, Toups says, “As far as moving forward, nothing will be done decision-wise until every employee is paid. And they will get every penny owed, I promise you that.”
According to screenshots of text messages between Toups and various staff members provided to Eater, Toups has said they will be paid “as soon as I get money” and mentioned several ways he is trying to raise cash with which to pay staff, including money from an investor, a second mortgage on his home, and a bank loan. As of last Friday, Toups says a loan has been funded and he expects to be able to pay employees later this week. This story will be updated if both Toups and employees confirm receipt of unpaid wages.
An email sent from Mucho Más last week with the subject line “Jobs at Mucho Más” announced that the restaurant was hiring, with a graphic that included this appeal: “Join our awesome family and see why we’re one of the best places to work!” Toups, however, denies sending the email. A sign at Mucho Más last week said that a Lakeview Harbor Uptown location at the address is “coming soon,” but again, when asked about the sign, Toups says that those plans are not set in stone.
Machado, Mucho Más’ original chef, left the restaurant in early June, both Dixon and Toups say, at which point Toups became the main point of contact for employees. Dixon says that despite a number of late paychecks leading up to the stoppage of payments in July, employees remained patient and hopeful, and wanted the restaurant to succeed following Machado’s departure. Toups alleges Machado left his role at the restaurant after a conversation between the two in which Toups said he would be “taking more stuff over,” according to Toups, and changing the menu.
Machado tells Eater that his decision to depart the restaurant was “based on a series of disagreements with [Toups], a situation that became a significant emotional burden and proved challenging to manage.” Regarding the allegations of non-payment by former employees, Machado says he extends his “solidarity and support” and that “Despite the differences I held with [Toups], an individual I have known for many years, I am confident in his commitment to honoring his financial obligations.”
Dixon says her primary motivation behind sharing the information publicly, other than to receive unpaid wages, was to warn others in the service industry about what happened to the Mucho Más staff after seeing plans related to the restaurant’s rebranding.
Update: August 25, 2023, 12:45 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from Julio Machado.