Employees Claim They Were Given No Warning About ClosureBy Jon Delano

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ROBINSON TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — Tonia Martin, mother of five, just bought a house in Aliquippa.

Tuesday morning, the employee of Joe’s Crab Shack, in Robinson Township, got the bad news through a schedule app on her phone.

“Basically said, your restaurant is permanently closed. Contact your state unemployment offices,” Martin told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.

Her reaction?

“I couldn’t believe it. How do you react when you have no job? You have nowhere to go,” she said.

“It feels like you’ve been punched in the gut. That’s how I think we all feel,” said Valerie Schwartz, another employee.

Schwartz said the suddenness of it all shocked employees.

“It hurts because we were all like family there. We worked together for so long,” she said.

The sign in the window – “Permanently Closed” — says it all.

But it was closed without notice to customers and employees alike, and it has a lot of people upset, asking themselves, is this the new corporate America?

“I believe we should have been given notice, at least 30 to 45 days, that this was in the works, so we could have had time to get our ducks in a row, get some bills paid off, find another job,” said Martin.

The rapid fire closing seems planned if not publicized.

Joe’s Crab Shack was owned by Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June.

In mid-August, another Texas company, Landry’s Inc., bought the Crab Shack chain, issuing this statement, “Prior to the closing, Ignite Restaurant Group will close negative cash flow stores. After the closing, Landry’s will either convert stores to other Landry’s concepts or return Joe’s to its glory years when previously owned by Landry’s.”

While the Crab Shack across from the Mall at Robinson closed suddenly, the one at Station Square remains open.

“Why would you buy us if you’re just going to close us?” asks Schwartz. “To me, in my opinion, I feel he did it in spite. He closed us for spite.”

Twelve hours after its doors were shut, Joe’s Crab Shack was hardly recognizable, as PCI Auction Group started hauling everything away.

Long-time employees were stunned.

“We knew they were going through bankruptcy. We knew we were going to be sold. But we didn’t know that they were going to close us,” said Schwartz.

Workers say the restaurant seemed to be doing well.

“We’re always busy, had repeat customers,” added Martin. “Myself and my other fellow servers, we had particular customers that came in on certain days, certain times, all the time.”

Locally, Landry’s, the new owner, also owns the Grand Concourse and Morton’s Steakhouse.

So what happens to all the items in the former restaurant?

Well, they’re auctioned online and you, too, can participate if you want to buy a fish or a beer sign for your wall.

Neither Landry’s nor Ignite would offer a definitive reason for closing the restaurant; although, it appears to be one of 41 closed this month.

Meanwhile, the laid-off employees say the company doesn’t seem to care about them.

“There was no effort, no effort made by the company to relocate anyone from the general manager down to the cooks, dishwashers, to the servers, there was no effort made,” says Martin.

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