Local deli closes abruptly; former employees say they're owed 3 weeks of pay

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HOUSTON – The McAlister’s Deli, located at the George R. Brown Convention Center closed its doors without notice last week, and former employees said they’re owed three weeks of pay. 

As of Friday, the lights were off, the doors locked and the sign that once hung over 1001 Avenida de Las Americas is gone.

“Everything was good at the job. I liked it a lot,” explained Qinia Whirl, who worked at the sandwich shop for the last year. “On Jan. 4, I went to work as scheduled. I was supposed to be there for 10, and I made it there by 9:30 that morning. When I made it there, my GM (general manager) told everyone  that they was closing, that we no longer had a job.” 

Whirl, who is expecting twins this summer, said she was blindsided by the news. 

“If there was a warning or, you know, say 'Hey, in a couple of days or in a couple of weeks, we’re going to be closing, you know,” explained Whirl. “I just feel like, you know, they should have gave us more time you know, a proper way to handle things.”

Former general manager Corey Hatcher said he’s worked at the deli since 2017.

"He said we're going to have to close, locked to the doors and let everybody know they can take whatever food they want, but we won't be able to put any money into the business,” Hatcher said. "I told everybody that I need to talk to them and a lot of the people said they could see on my face that they knew what it was.” 

The former general manager said at least 20 employees were let go. Hatcher, who relocated to Houston from Fort Worth for the job, said he, too, was shocked by the sudden closing.

“They told us we were doing well. We just had a good month in November, we made over $100,000. I think $110,000 we made. The next month was a little slower, but I didn’t think that was enough to close us,” said Hatcher. “I don’t get to see the books, I just see my side of the business.”

As both Whirl and Hatcher continue to look for new jobs, they’re also upset they haven’t been paid for three weeks of work.

“No one received a paycheck,” Whirl said. “The last paycheck we received was from McAlister’s was on Dec. 21, and that was it.” 

She said she’s owed about $575 that was supposed to be given out on Jan. 4, but she said that was the day they learned the store was closing. 

“I have reached out to corporate. Corporate has not replied, either,” explained Whirl who said she’s angry and hurt by the situation. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the McAlister’s Deli Corporate office stated: 

"We unexpectedly became aware of the closing, and we are attempting to reach the franchise to understand the details. This is a franchised location. The employees of the restaurant work for the franchise and would be paid by the franchise.” 

Hatcher said he’s been in touch with the franchise but said: “I’ve called every day. I’ve basically got the runaround.”  

He said he’s owed about $1,615.30. 

“I would say they owe us, maybe it’s under $20,000 that they owe all of us. It’s basically a drop in the bucket for them. I feel like they should go ahead and pay us, the employees,” Hatcher said. “Just take care of your employees, because we were the ones that took care of y’all, help keep the doors open and pay the bills. We did our part.”

KPRC Channel 2 News reached out to two men based in Canada associated with the franchise, but no one answered the phone.