Employee says Ryan’s closed with no warning

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 21, 2012 at 12:43 AM

Ryan’s restaurant on Mountcastle Drive has closed as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed Wednesday by its parent company Buffets Restaurants Holdings Inc.

Andrew Bailey, who was to begin work as manager trainee at the Johnson City Ryan’s on Friday morning, said he arrived at the restaurant early and discovered a note taped to the door stating the restaurant had closed permanently and directing customers to two other Ryan’s locations in North Carolina.

“Not having any notice or warning, it was pretty disheartening,” Bailey said. “I was counting on those next two paychecks and had discontinued my search for other jobs.”

The note apologized to Ryan’s customers for any inconvenience and expressed appreciation for their patronage over the years.

Larry Archer, a Unicoi resident who ate lunch at Ryan’s several times a week, said he and many other senior citizens will miss it. “I went (Thursday) to eat and was disappointed to see they had closed,” he said. “There had been rumors going around for a while. The Ryan’s in Kingsport closed some time back.

“I hate to see it close. It was my favorite. I thought they had the best fried chicken of anybody around. I hate it for the employees. They had some really good people and waitresses who had been there a long time.”

The Minnesota-based Buffets Restaurants Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for a second time since 2008 on Wednesday. Filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., the bankruptcy petition includes a restructuring plan in which the company proposes to shut down 81 of its restaurants and hand over all equity in the company to its senior creditors. The plan states that 83 percent of the company’s creditors have agreed to eliminate most of the company’s $245 million debt in exchange for 100 percent equity in the reorganized company.

Buffet’s CEO Mike Andrews said the plan “marks the beginning of a new era” for Buffets and will provide resources to invest in its re-concepting program. About 16 percent of the Buffet’s restaurants, including Ryan’s, Tahoe Joe’s and others, were slated for closure. Ryan’s in Greeneville was still doing business on Friday.

While disappointed by the unexpected loss of his management opportunity, Bailey is taking the Johnson City restaurant’s closing in stride. “I’m just counting it up as a loss. I’m not going to get anywhere calling and complaining,” he said. “I’ll just keep trying to find a job around here in the Tri-Cities and I’ll find something.”

“I hate it and I’m going to miss it,” Archer said.

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