Iconic Sheepshead Bay restaurant Roll-N-Roaster is playing Scrooge this holiday season and barking a mighty “Ba humbug” to needy children, according to parents at a local elementary school.
Parents Association leaders at P.S. 222 in Marine Park say Roll-N-Roaster failed to deliver promised donations after a December 1 fundraiser, going as far as accusing the restaurant of “pocketing” money.
“I think we were set up. They were never planning to give us as much as they promised, but we didnt know that,” PA Co-president Mardie Sheiken said.
But while Sheiken and P.S. 222 officials say Roll-N-Roaster shortchanged the school children of hundreds of dollars, the restaurant’s general manager, Ayet Karce, says event organizers violated the agreement and their contribution was “generous.”
Ultimately, Roll-N-Roaster outraged organizers with a paltry $471.00, about half the amount it receives from similar fundraisers at McDonalds. Sheiken said the event was “standing room only” for all three hours, making it impossible that $471.00 was the full 10 percent promised from the agreement.
Sheiken said that there were about 150 families at the event (a number Roll-N-Roaster agrees with), and that each spent about $50. She said people came with up to eight children, and estimated they should have raised closer to $1000.
The event was to pay for an accessible bus for disabled 5th graders to join the senior trip to Medieval Times in New Jersey, and to help at least seven needy families pay to have their kids join their classmates. Several students came from special needs classes, and two are in wheelchairs.
They hammered out a deal to have a three hour event where 10 percent of all proceeds brought in by the organizers would be donated back to the PA.
The deal was modeled on other fundraisers the school does at McDonalds. Twice a year, the PA works with management at the Marine Park McDonalds (Flatbush Avenue and Filmore Avenue), in which the school gets 10 percent of all sales in the three hour window.
According to Sheiken, the McDonalds fundraisers bring around $800 to the group. At Roll-N-Roaster they expected to fare better, since prices are higher and the reputation better.
On top of it, Sheiken said Karce told her that the owner, Nick “Buddy” Lamonica, would kick in a little extra, saying he was a generous man who donates to the community and his employees. Sheiken said Karce told her Lamonica once gave Rolex watches to the employees as a gift.
Karce later called Sheiken to tell her that she could prepare flyers that included a 10 percent coupon for the school’s families and friends. The coupons would also help Roll-N-Roaster keep track of the number of clients the fundraiser drew.
“That was generous on our part. They never had that with other restaurants,” Karce said. “We were generous enough to do that and what they did was take advantage.”
The flyers eventually became the source of controversy.
Sheiken said she expressed worries about the coupon, since busy parents would likely forget to bring them, leaving it on refrigerators and dining room tables. She said Karce said the PA could hand them out to people associated with the school during the event.
“He said it was no problem as long as we werent soliciting his regular customers,” she said. “Nobody solicited his regular customers.”
Karce, though, said “bullshit.” He claims he never gave permission to hand out flyers at the establishment, and he spotted PA president Maryann Locicero handing out flyers to customers.
“A lot of those flyers were flyers given to our customers,” said Karce. “I was told they were people who forgot about them. They thought we were idiots and would believe that.”
Karce said the amount given was 10 percent of what came in from the flyers. Because of what he saw as “dishonesty,” the business did not donate more.
Karce said Roll-N-Roaster was reluctant to do this kind of event and won’t be doing it again in the future.
“This is a classic case of why we shouldn’t have done it, because it did interfere with customers who were complaining,” he said. “It was an inconvenience for our customers that came, which [the PA] solicited outside, stalking them as they came out of cars.”
Meanwhile, the PA is looking for ways to get the restaurant to “make good” on the deal.
“We just cant believe they did this to us this time of year,” said Sheiken. “People want to boycott, people want to protest in front of the restaurant.”
“I think they’re totally screwing us.”