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Leva Bonaparte Shares Why Terminating Lucía Peña Was the "Toughest Firing" (EXCLUSIVE)
The Republic matriarch also opened up about where she stands with Lucía and Mia today.
When the cameras picked back up for Southern Hospitality Season 2, viewers learned that the Republic matriarch had fired VIP Server Lucía Peña for taking a "swig" of alcohol in the back during a shift.
"Sadly, over the past few years, we got a little loose with our rules. It's my fault, because I do like to be a friendly boss," Leva explained in an interview on the Season 2 premiere. "I am known to give first, second, third, fourth, fifth chances, but they need to remember they're the hosts of the party, not the guests. So, as of this year, we're going back to the handbook. Here are your rules: Show up on time, respect your managers, don't drink, and if there's insubordination, you're fired. You're out of here."
When fellow server Mia Alario claimed that she had also imbibed alcohol during a shift while defending her friend, Lucía, Leva made the decision to fire her as well.
On Season 2, Episode 2, which aired on December 14, Leva and Lucía sat down together to discuss the termination. Though Lucía did ask for her job back, Leva noted that the "door is closed" because she broke a serious rule.
During an exclusive chat with The Daily Dish, Leva shared the background behind Lucia's firing, and she opened up about how their close personal relationship made the termination feel like the "worst thing ever."
Leva Bonaparte Explains Why She Fired Lucía Peña and Mia Alario
Though it may seem like Leva and her CEO, Leah, are cracking down on the staff's drinking for the first time on Season 2, the restaurateur told The Daily Dish that she has let go of "hundreds of staff for this reason" in the past. Ahead of filming, Leva said that she "sent out multiple emails" and had several meetings with her employees about her businesses' "immediate fires," which include drinking, violence, and insubordination.
"Since opening night when we fired half our staff, [we've said], when you are handling alcohol and serving alcohol, it's a safety issue if you're drinking," she said about the staff members she has in her four restaurants/bars. "So you definitely cannot be drinking what you're serving for the safety of the patrons, for the safety of the staff."
Leva noted that there is "a very fine line" between a VIP concierge, who is "sort of getting paid to throw a party," versus a server whose responsibility is to serve alcohol to the patrons.
"I'm not dim to think that people don't sneak stuff here and there," Leva said. "I'm sure there's things I haven't caught or a manager hasn't caught. I have four buildings; I'm not in them at every moment, at every time. I can't fire people based on he said/she said, but if there's an incident report or it's caught on camera, like in the case of Lucía... It was in the back of the building, which is why it felt hurtful to me, because it felt very deceitful."
"She's my friend. She came to my kid's birthday party. I've known her for so many years, and I care about her," she continued. "I root for her, and that's where all of the 'she owes me an apology' came from, because it felt icky to me."
Though Leva has become close with Lucía over the years, she can't keep one set of rules for some of her employees, and another for the rest.
"I don't wish firing people on anyone, certainly not firing a friend," she added about why terminating Lucía was the "toughest firing" she's done in a decade. "It's one of the hardest things to do, but you know, laws are laws. I can't fire some people and not fire others."
Leva also addressed the comment Mia made regarding Lucía and maternity leave.
"I was just like, you need to go home and like, think about this, because I would have to sit down with you for quite some time to explain the levels of inaccuracy that are coming out of your mouth left and right. That's right down to the maternity leave comment and all that sort of stuff. Like, we're in a nightclub. Lucía left for other reasons. There's no way she could be even working in here until she was like eight months pregnant anyway," she said. "Like, how would that look? That wouldn't be safe. It's kind of comical, which is why I sort of just wasn't engaging in it and I was just letting her say what she needed to say."
As Leva said, both firings "hurt."
"It hurt for me because I have to protect my business. Things like this affect your liquor license; This [can] make your business go away," she added. "You have to be really serious about it."
Where Leva Bonaparte Stands with Lucía Pena and Mia Alario Today
Though Leva had to be the one to terminate both Mia and Lucía, she is in a "good" place with them both.
"We're good. She comes in all the time, as does Mia," Leva said. "Lucía was contrite from the beginning. Mia, I think, had to get past her own ego a bit... After some time, you'll see that Mia might get past that, and it's real life, like you make bad decisions, you don't really think through."
Ultimately, Leva wants nothing but the best for the two cast members.
"I root for them both, and hopefully just both of them learn a little," she said. "I learned a lot through the process, and I'm hoping that they learn a little too."
As Leva noted, "I'm not a perfect boss, just as much as they're not perfect employees."
"I'm trying to figure out the right ways, too, and I can get angry and my feelings can get genuinely really hurt," she concluded.