UPDATE: Restaurant owner says business closed because of legal dispute
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – A local restaurant shuts down, and employees are upset with the way the closing was handled.
Employees said Shuckers Oyster Bar and Grill closed its doors to business Wednesday night. That's when employees said the owners came to the restaurant located on Market Street and removed everything.
The owner of Shuckers said the restaurant closed becauseof a legal dispute over repairs to HVAC units on the building.
Kevin Marksberry said they have been dealing withproblems with the units since August 2013.
"It wasn't a decision," Marksberry said."We were forced to leave in my opinion."
Marksberry said he thought telling the employees that therestaurant was going to close would make them not want to show up and finishtheir jobs.
But he also says employees knew what was going on with theheating and air issues.
"I feel their pain. I'm going through the same thingthey are," Marksberry said.
He says he has no intention of opening another Shuckersin Wilmington any time soon.
"We have to catch up from this great loss,"Marksberry said. "It's a heavy burden to have to shut a restaurantdown."
He said the eatery's closing was just the end result ofan unfortunate chain of events.
"We opened up to be a business forever...and wefailed," Marksberry said.
He says final payroll checks and letters have been sentout to employees.
"We give and we care but at the same time we did ourpart and have to walk away," Marksberry said.
The Shuckers restaurants in Southern Pines and WakeForest are still in operation.
Employees said they were caught off guard by the closing, some showing up to work to find the building empty.
"There's nothing left in the store," Olivia Thompson said. "It's gone. They came and picked up and left in less than a day."
Thompson said the only way she knew she had lost her job was through comments on Facebook and by going to the restaurant and looking through the windows to see that everything was gone.
"They could have at least had the decency to call us," Thompson said. "They didn't tell us. They didn't come up to our face and say anything. They just pretty much closed the doors one day and let everybody go."
WECT looked into the rights of employees of small businesses to see if they are protected against situations like this.
What we found was a lack of protection. According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, only companies with 100 or more people are required to report a closing 60 days ahead of large layoffs.
Small companies, like Shuckers in Wilmington that employees about 40 people, are excluded from this "WARN" notice.
However, they are still required to pay their employees. The NC Department of Labor said if employees are not paid by the 10th day after the time they normally receive their paychecks, they can file a complaint.
We have reached out to the owners for comment, but haven't heard back at this time. We did learn that they also own a location in Wake Forest, NC. As of Friday, that restaurant was still in business.