This is getting old.
A Murdock restaurant’s staff arrives one morning to find that their workplace is no more.
Just two months after Port Charlotte’s T.G.I. Friday’s took its employees by surprise by closing its doors, Ruby Tuesday at Port Charlotte Town Center mall did the same, after serving its last dinner on a (wait for it) Tuesday.
Wednesday morning, assistant general manager Evan Smith posted a photo on Facebook announcing his store’s demise.
One of the store’s cooks, who asked not to be named, showed up for prep, only to learn he was out of a job.
“We found out when we got here,” he said, his voice quavering.
When he looked across the mall Wednesday morning, Brian Smith, owner of Town Center’s remaining anchor eatery, Cody’s Original Roadhouse, was taken by surprise himself.
“It’s never good when businesses close,” he said. “People think it means the next business will pick it up, and some of that might be true, but it just sends a negative message to the public. This Ruby Tuesday was a relatively productive business — one of their best in the state. It’s sad.”
Stealth overnight shutterings are a familiar story among faltering national casual chains from T.G.I. Friday’s to Applebee’s and Chili’s. Ruby Tuesday had gotten a particular reputation for them lately.
Though the federal WARN Act requires most employers with more than 100 full-time workers to notify them of mass layoffs and closures 60 days in advance, Ruby Tuesday and other local chains are exempt because they have fewer full-timers than that.
The casual-dining restaurant had fallen on tough times that the pandemic only worsened. Five different CEOs in five years had tried, without success, to boost sagging sales by spotlighting Ruby’s buffet salad bar.
Port Charlotte Town Center reopened its own Garden Bar recently, outfitted with gloves and frequently changed serving utensils, but that wasn’t enough to save it in an era when garden-fresh eateries like Sweet Tomatoes and Souplantation have folded their tongs and vanished.
Despite receiving between $5 and $10 million in paycheck protection program loans, Ruby Tuesday continues to turn off the lights in store after store.
According to Business Insider, Ruby Tuesday has closed 169 locations since Jan. 23, leaving only 298 worldwide.
Barbara Roche, general manager of Port Charlotte Town Center, said, “Along with our more than 75 national, regional and local retailers, we continue to focus on providing a dynamic experience for our guests with a mix of retail, dining and entertainment options, including events and activities throughout the year.
“As for the closing of Ruby Tuesday, it provides an opportunity to bring new tenants to Port Charlotte Town Center. Our leasing team is in discussions with potential new tenants to fill the space and we will announce plans when we are able.”
Still we’re gonna miss it.