Business Beat: Harding Smith, Owner of Front Room Talks About “ROC” Failed Lawsuit

Harding Smith, chef/owner of the popular Front Room restaurant on the Hill.

Harding Smith, chef/owner of the popular Front Room restaurant on the Hill.

By Carol McCracken (Post # 490)

Harding Smith was sitting at his own bar at the Front Room restaurant on the Hill early this afternoon – sipping a soda while waiting for his “to go” order. He was having lunch with family members before going to work later in the day. He’s a busy chef with three popular restaurants in the area. MHN.com slipped onto the chair next to his for the hoped for interview he’d agreed to recently about his recent ordeal. He obliged.

Early in January, Smith was slapped with a complaint filed by six plaintiffs in the US District Court. It alleged that Smith had violated various labor laws and the complaint requested a jury trial. Meanwhile, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Maine (ROC-ME) who brought the suit on behalf of the plantiffs, began staging demonstrations outside the restaurant on the Hill – more than ten of them in fact. According to ROC, they were trying to force Smith to come to the bargaining table without the presence of his attorney. Increasingly, the protestors began to drop off, until the last one had only a handful show-up. Last month, ROC ended its campagin against the Front Room.

Smith said that the ROC group was “pretty pathetic.” The New York based group took money from his employees because the protestors and bad publicity did have a negative impact on his business. But he didn’t say how much. Smith said the group failed because it didn’t have enough money or members. “The money they needed to continue would come from shakedowns,” against me, Smith said. He also cleared up an inaccurate media report that several of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were employees of his when the lawsuit was filed. That’s not so, he said. His lunch order arrived and Smith left – and my lunch arrived and I stayed to enjoy it.