Rick StiebelThe Chronicle
Staff and customers were caught off guard by the sudden closing of Ricky’s Restaurant in Ladysmith
The popular restaurant in Coronation Mall closed its doors for good on Sept. 25, following some uncertainty for staff that began four days before, said Donna Streeter, the restaurant’s general manager for the past 11 years.
“I was actually employed by Ricky’s before the building was completed 20 years ago,” said Streeter, who worked in the kitchen for nine years before becoming general manager.
She has been on compassionate leave since August while her husband is in palliative care, stressing how supportive her staff and customers have been during a difficult time, exacerbated by the sudden closing of the restaurant.
“One of my servers called me Wednesday because she thought something funny was going on,” Streeter said, explaining how events unfolded.
The server told Streeter that the bread delivery driver wanted to know if they wanted delivery the next day because he had heard from head office that the doors were being locked on Monday.
“I was in total disbelief,” Streeter said.
The server said she asked if the owner had contacted Streeter and she said she didn’t want to cause her any more stress.
Streeter spoke with the owner, Aileen Yan, the next day and was told the mall’s management was locking the doors on Monday and taking back ownership.
The Jim Pattison Group, which purchased Coronation Mall in April of 2014, issued a letter on Aug. 19 stating the lease would expire on Dec. 31 “as the landlord cannot accommodate the tenant’s business operations in the premises or Coronation mall beyond the expiry date.”
Streeter said the staff meeting Sunday afternoon where the 21 employees were given termination papers was an emotional one.
“There was a lot of shock, anger and tears,” she said. “Everyone was really mad about the way it was done.”
Streeter said when Yan and her husband, Jerry Li, took over the restaurant 32 months ago, all of the employees were assured that all of the terms and conditions of employment with Ricky’s would be honoured.
“Quite a few of the staff were entitled to eight weeks’ severance and they didn’t get it,” Streeter said, adding many of the staff have already filed grievances with the B.C. Employment Standards Branch.
“I hope I get a severance package,” said Streeter, who has received nothing at this point. “After 20 years that’s just not right.”
Yan said she and her husband have invested $200,000 in the business and lost “lots of money” in the process.
“I’m not the bad guy here,” she said, breaking into sobs. “It’s not our fault. We had no choice,” she said, insisting that all requirements have been fulfilled regarding severance for the employees.
She said the decision to close so suddenly even though she had been without a lease since April was because she didn’t want to tell people they had no job at Christmas time.
Representatives from the Jim Pattison Group and Ricky’s Restaurants did not respond before the Chronicle’s deadline.