Local restaurant abruptly closes; lawyer explains employee rights

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*Editors note: The video attached to this story says the general manager informed staff of the closing Monday night, however they were told Tuesday Morning. 

HAMPTON, Va. - A popular Hampton restaurant abruptly shut down Tuesday, sending staff members to the unemployment line.

Workers at Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant in Peninsula Town Center told News 3 they found out Tuesday that the business permanently closed.

Ryan Cruz, a bartender and server, said a former co-worker told him the news at the end of his shift Monday night.

“It was kind of heartbreaking," Cruz said.

Cruz, who also works a part time job, said the restaurant was his main income.

“It’s a big jump to go from making a couple thousand a month to making zero dollars just like that. That was the bread and butter. That was the main job. Everything revolved around that job first," Cruz explained.

On social media, some employees talked about possibly suing.

We reached out to a local employment lawyer about those concerns.

Joshua Jewett, with Ervin Jewett P.C., said legal recourse depends on the size of the business.

“Virginia law has few protections for employees," Jewett said.

For large businesses, Jewett said employers are required by federal law to give staff and their families a 60 calendar-day advance notification of closure.

“In a case like this where it’s a small restaurant, there’s less than 50 employees involved – there’s nothing they can do about the facility suddenly closing," Jewett explained.

Cruz said the Mexican restaurant employs about 40 people.

Jewett suggests filing for unemployment and start looking for other work.

Workers at larger companies, according to Jewett, are protected under WARN, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Abuelo's management sent us the following statement regarding the closure:

"The Abuelo’s Hampton restaurant has closed. Unfortunately, this location was underperforming and the decision was made to terminate the lease in accordance with its terms. We have provided letters of recommendation to all employees, as well as offered assistance with other possible employment opportunities at our Abuelo’s restaurant in Chesapeake or at other local restaurant establishments. Abuelo’s Hampton is very appreciative of its employees’ dedication over the years, and we are thankful to our guests for their loyal support and patronage."

Cruz said he may look into getting a job at the Chesapeake location.