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BUCKHEAD | Pizzeria bartender, owner battle 'hot chicks' lawsuit | News

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BUCKHEAD | Pizzeria bartender, owner battle 'hot chicks' lawsuit
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ATLANTA, Ga. -- One of the restaurants in the final round for a concession space at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is facing a lawsuit after a bartender says he was replaced by a plan to hire only "hot chicks".

On one side of this lawsuit is Tony Clark, a former bartender at Varasano's pizzeria, who declined an interview with 11Alive. His attorney Muna Claxton sat down with us instead.

"Tony is not about publicity," Claxton said. "That's why he's not here."

On the other side is the owner of Varasano's, Jeffery Varasano. Restaurant consultant Brett Holtzclaw is not named as a defended in the lawsuit, but he is implicated as the man behind the "hot chicks" plan.

"You almost have to prove you innocence rather than prove your guilt," Varasano said. "And we can. We have."

According to the lawsuit, Holtzclaw devised a plan to start hiring "hot chicks," then cut Clark's hours. Claxton told 11Alive News Clark overheard Holtzclaw use those exact words in his plan to bring in more customers to the Buckhead restaurant.

"I don't even know where he's going with that," Varasano said.

"There was never a strategy like that," Holtzclaw added.

When asked if she had evidence or witnesses to corroborate Clark's claims the "hot chicks" conversation ever took place, Claxton said, "Yes we do, and we believe as the lawsuit goes forward, that will come out."

Clark's complaint to EEOC was dismissed back in September. His lawsuit was filed this week in federal court.

Varasano says after months of nothing, there's more to the timing of the lawsuit. His restaurant has recently been in the spotlight as a finalist for a new concession at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

RELATED: Airport concessions contracts spark controversy

Claxton said neither she nor her client knew about their recent attention.

As part of the EEOC investigation, Varasano's provided a break-down of their current staffing: they have 16 males and 17 females.

"This has never been an issue for us. That's why this is so ridiculous. We have people of all genders, sexual orientations, races. We just want them to work hard," Varasano said.

Claxton insists her client was a hard worker.

"He did not deserve to lose his job. I have letters from clients that said they missed seeing him there, that he did a good job," she said.

Varasano said Clark didn't work hard. He showed 11Alive an e-mail where the ex-bartender complained about working late hours, and another exchanged between managers discussing problems Clark was having training other bartenders. Both were dated before the alleged "hot chicks" conversation.

A letter from Claxton's law firm dated in January proposed a $100,000 settlement. But Varasano insists he has the evidence to prove the hot chicks lawsuit is going cold fast. It includes pages and pages of e-mails and Facebook conversations, including one between two former Varasano's employees, one of them Clark, asking, "Where's the money?? LOL."

"Tony just wants what's fair," Claxton said.

"This is ridiculous," Varasano replied.

With neither side budging, the case dubbed "the hot chicks" has been assigned to a federal judge.

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