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Posted: October 06, 2015

Group of trendy Atlanta restaurants suddenly closes

The website for Here To Serve Resturants displays the bad news. The company is reorganizing and employees are wondering if they are going to get paid.
The website for Here To Serve Resturants displays the bad news. The company is reorganizing and employees are wondering if they are going to get paid.

By Veronica Waters

Several of the city's hottest restaurants have shuttered their doors--leaving some staffers wondering if they'll get paid.

Here To Serve Restaurant Group (H2SR) has operated more than a dozen eateries around metro Atlanta. They include Prime, Strip, Twist, Coast Seafood and Raw Bar, Noche, Shucks, and Smash.  Some of the properties had already closed since December, including Shout, Goldfish, and Aja.

Monday evening, some of the restaurants had begun closing before the dinner rush--including Prime, Smash, and Shucks.  Jimmy Meas, executive sushi chef at Here To Serve since 1996, said many of the workers were tearing up even as they labored on at Twist.

"My heart is broken, because I put my life in there, in the restaurant business," he said.  "I have three children, my wife stays home.  I put in a lot of hours. I worked 12, 15 hours a day."

He said employees from the dishwashers to the sous chefs were concerned over whether they would get paid.  Payday was last Friday, October 2, but no one had gotten their money.

An e-mail from H2SR president & CEO Leigh Catherall that day expressed regret to all employees.

"Please accept our apology for the grave inconvenience of late paychecks this week.  We have been working on this issue since 6am today.

All staff should anticipate paychecks Monday morning for direct deposit and afternoon for paper," it said.

Staffers came in to work on Monday as usual, but had not yet been paid.  By that time, Meas says, workers were baffled and seeking answers.  The restaurant group has done well for years, he said.  He estimated that 1,000 people at 14 restaurants might be affected by the changes in recent months.

"Honestly, a lot of people work paycheck to paycheck--even myself," Meas said. 

An October 2014 e-mail from her attorney to Simon Property Group, published by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, said that Leigh Catherall was acquiring ownership of the H2SR properties as part of a divorce settlement with Atlanta chef Tom Catherall.

Monday evening, an e-mail from the Director of Operations at H2SR, Phil Handley, went out to managers, stating in part, "It is with heavy heart that I let you know we will not be opening up tomorrow."

By 10:30 p.m., the restaurant group posted a website notice saying that they're reorganizing. 

Meas is hopeful that his longtime employer will bounce back.

"I put everything in God's hands, honestly," said Meas.


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