SEATTLE - A shocking shutdown of a popular restaurant chain leaves employees in the lurch. The company says all the locations of TGI Friday's in the state have been closed.
Employees said the restaurant has been in trouble for a while. Recently, some paychecks bounced, and at one point the state came in and seized all the liquor because the bill hadn't been paid. But they didn't realize how widespread the problem was.
Restaurant patrons heading to the TGI Friday's in Tacoma were greeted by locked doors and a sign stating the restaurant had been closed for business reasons. It came as a big surprise to customers.
"It was always full, there was always people, very rarely would you get seated right when you walked in," says Mary Johnson, a customer who had been coming here for at least two years.
Employees started getting calls Friday morning not to come in.
"It's a scramble. It's real hard to find jobs right now. And they left us with real short notice to find a place to go. And everybody has bills due, nowadays more so," says Matthew Gensember, a bar server.
Earl Jess has been a bartender there for 10 years. He said during that time his paychecks had bounced several times.
"They were having problems with the owner not paying his bills and with bouncing checks and they were trying to resolve it," said Jess.
KING 5 has learned 10 TGI Friday locations in Washington, Oregon, and California have closed down, including the restaurants in Kirkland, Tacoma, Puyallup, Spokane, and Vancouver.
All of the locations are owned by the same franchisee.
The company tells KING 5: "The owners of these restaurants have not met their obligations to TGI Friday's Inc... We have no further options other than enforcing the court order from August 20 which requires the owners to cease using the TGI Friday's brand name."
KING 5 has not been able to track down the owners to get any comment. Employees at some of the locations said they're trying to find a way to reopen sometime next week, but the company says it will not be under the TGI Friday's name.