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Troubles Mount for El Paso's Artisan Hotel as Workers Seek Back Wages

By Diana Washington Valdez, El Paso Times, TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Apr. 2, 2010--EL PASO -- The Artisan Hotel in Downtown did not reopen this week as the owner said it would, and former employees are complaining they are owed back wages.

John Kelly, a former night auditor, and Loretta Armendariz, a cook for the hotel lounge, said they were sent home a couple of weeks ago, and had to file for unemployment benefits. Both had worked at the hotel since January. The hotel had 10 employees, Kelly said.

Douglas DaSilva, the hotel owner, was unavailable for comment Thursday. Last week, he said the hotel had problems with the broiler.

"DaSilva owes me nearly $3,000 in back wages," Kelly said. "I hung on because he kept promising to pay us, but nothing materialized. I got behind on my rent and child support because of this, and had to apply for food stamps.

"There was income coming in because we did have people staying at the hotel," Kelly said.

For example, in January, the hotel and lounge together grossed $46,000, and in February, they grossed $71,000, he said. Yet a Feb. 20 check made out to Kelly for $1,007.72 from 325 Texveda Investments (the hotel) bounced because of insufficient funds.

"Once they turned off the gas, I could no longer cook anything," Armendariz said. "Mr. DaSilva owes me more than $1,000. I talked to Mr. DaSilva by phone on Wednesday, and he said he would get me my money, but I don't believe it anymore."

Armendariz and Kelly said they do not expect the hotel to reopen, at least not under the current owner.

A handwritten

sign at the front door of the hotel at 325 N. Kansas says, "Broiler is under repair, will reopen Tuesday (March 27) at noon. We apologize for any inconvenience." The hotel, though, remained closed.

DaSilva and his wife, Ninette, owned the Artisan Hotel in Las Vegas, which was in foreclosure earlier this year. The hotel was under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but converted later to Chapter 7 for liquidation, according to court records. The hotel in Las Vegas was sold earlier this year.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at; 546-6140.


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