The owner of a coffee bar in New Jersey faces a federal lawsuit alleging he was defrauding customers of $2,400 by promising them “burritos” that never arrived, according to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New Jersey.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Monday in Camden, New Jersey, and seeks class-action status.
In court documents, the attorney general’s office said the coffee bar “used deceptive practices to falsely advertise” its products.
The bar was closed on March 23 after the owner, Raul Barer, admitted to employees that he had a small business that had not been able to make enough money from sales, the lawsuit states.
The case is the latest legal test of the legal system’s ability to hold large companies accountable for their business practices, said Andrew Bowers, a professor at Columbia Law School.
The coffee bar’s business was “not a typical coffee shop, it was a very large coffee bar with a very high turnover rate,” Bowers said.
The plaintiffs include three former employees and the owners of other coffee bars.
The suit claims they were deceived by Barer and by his employees.
The company was also selling a brand of coffee made from the same beans, and Barer was “a frequent customer” at one of those stores, the statement said.
In one of the lawsuits, one of Barer’s employees alleges the coffee chain lied to him when he asked for a refund for his money spent.
The other plaintiffs allege that when they complained to Barer about his behavior, the company’s owners were dismissive and patronizing.
“At the end of the day, we have a company that has been negligent and not responsible in the way it has treated its customers,” Bower said.
“It’s unfortunate that this was the first of many times we’ve seen it in our years of working with this industry.
And it’s unfortunate the way that this case was handled in court.”
Barry’s attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.