Owner of Bed-Stuy cafe departs on ‘vacation’ before eviction, leaving staff unpaid: workers

Cafe Tucum was evicted from its Patchen Avenue location in October.
Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith

The owner of Bed-Stuy’s former Cafe Tucum left the country for a Brazilian holiday a few weeks before the cafe was evicted from its Patchen Avenue building and did not paid his staff for more than a month, former employees allege.

The former employees, who asked not to be named, said the owner of the once-popular Brazilian hangout, Sid Castello-Branco, who also goes by Sid Matos, stopped responding to their messages and left them to run the cafe without any idea of when they would get paid.

“After about a week of him being gone and not responding to any of our messages, we started to get a bad feeling, but many friends of his assured us that he was a good person,” the employees told Brownstoner via email. “A week later, we all decided to stop keeping the cafe open with no communication or indication of how we would be paid.”

Just days after the employees stopped opening the cafe, an eviction notice went up on the front door of the building. According to court filings, Castello-Branco was evicted in October owing the building owner Macon LLC more than $75,000 in rent. The documents said Castello-Branco had not paid the full monthly rent since signing a lease in 2019. The monthly rent for 2022 was $4,299, according to the lease.

The marshal’s notice and a for-rent sign are posted on the front door.Photo by Anna Bradley-Smith

The employees said they learned about the situation through a Brownstoner article on the cafe’s eviction. “We knew we’d been played, we felt betrayed, hurt, and mad. Not only were we not going to get paid, we never were. We had been lied to by Sid, and his friends led us to believe he was honest. And now the same friends are nowhere around to help us,” they said.

The former employees, who said many of them had only recently been hired and had never been paid by Castello-Branco, organized and filed complaints with the Department of Labor about four weeks ago, but have not yet heard back.

They also took over the cafe’s Instagram page, where they posted an account of what had happened and appealed to the community to help them raise funds to cover their lost wages.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by TUCUM 🇧🇷 (@tucum_nyc)

The group said they have not yet heard from Castello-Branco, but sent Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Brownstoner a screenshot of a story Castello-Branco posted on his personal and private Instagram account, that they said was “juxtaposed between selfie videos on a beach in Hawaii,” that read:

“Nobody has right to take my history of labor and blackmail my business and personal life without my permission. What I have been accused of is exactly what they are doing to me. Use the trust I have to invalidate my dedication and purity love it’s not serving the community. I myself, Sid Matos I’m a real community. No one who has spend less than several months working in My Tucum has not the right to put down years of dedication and labor. If you know me please deunce those hackers who had stolen Tucum_NYC instagram page.”

Reached by text Dec. 1, Castello-Branco told Brownstoner the business was challenged by the Covid pandemic, and said someone he did not personally hire has embezzled funds and falsely accused Castello-Branco of owing back wages.

While the former employees said “abruptly losing your job and having to sue someone to pay you the money they owe you doesn’t feel good,” they have found solace in the bond they created going through the experience together. “The way all the employees have come together to stand up for each other is really heartwarming and encouraging.”

This story first appeared on Brownstoner.