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Cuyahoga Falls buffet closes to public after court ruling on employee wages

By PHIL KEREN Cuyahoga Falls News-Press Editor and Associated Press Published: April 20, 2017 12:06 PM
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Cuyahoga Falls -- A televangelist's restaurant has abruptly closed to the public after a court ordered them to pay $388,000 to a group of employees and found that members of his church were urged to volunteer at the buffet as unpaid workers.

Messages posted at the Cathedral Buffet restaurant on State Road and on its website indicate it closed as of Tuesday. The restaurant is located at the site of Ernest Angley Ministries and the Cathedral of Tomorrow, 2690 State Road.

"We have always kept our prices low as a service to the community so whole families can afford to have dinner out and we have never made a profit," said Sonya Neale, manager of Cathedral Buffet, in an emailed response to a query from the Falls News-Press. "But we cannot continue to do it without volunteers. Therefore we have permanently closed to the public."

The U.S. Department of Labor had alleged labor-law violations in an August 2015 lawsuit against Ernest Angley and his restaurant. The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Last month, a federal judge ordered the 95-year-old Angley and the restaurant to pay back wages and damages.

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The U.S. Department of Labor said an investigation found 239 employees at the buffet were owed a total of $207,000.

Angley has maintained that buffet operators did nothing wrong. His attorney previously indicated they might appeal the judge's decision.

The alleged violations resulted when, according to a release issued by the U.S. Labor Department in August 2015, the defendants improperly treated certain workers as "volunteers" and paid them no wages. These "volunteers" worked in the buffet restaurant cooking, cleaning, waiting on tables, stocking and maintaining the buffet line, and as cashiers.

The press release also claimed two dining room attendants, ages 14 and 15, worked in violation of the restricted hours for minors.

The defendants, the release stated, also paid four managers weekly salaries that were too low to meet the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, and did not pay overtime after 40 hours.

In 1954, Maude Aimee and the Rev. Rex Humbard settled in Akron, where they built the Cathedral of Tomorrow in what is now Cuyahoga Falls in 1958. From the Cathedral, they began their television and radio ministry that continued for more than 37 years. Programs from the Cathedral of Tomorrow went out to more than 2,000 television stations around the world in 77 different languages. Pastor Ernest Angley bought the Cathedral of Tomorrow facility in the 1990s, according to a story that ran in the May 20, 2012 Cuyahoga Falls News-Press.

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