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Popular Summerside restaurant abruptly closes, leaving staff in the dark

Local 311 has closed until further notice.
Local 311 has closed until further notice. - Desiree Anstey

Local 311 closed its doors and turned off the lights on Friday

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. -  Employees at a popular restaurant in Summerside are jobless, confused, and angry after their pay cheques bounced and their employer declared in a group Facebook message, “We are done.”

Former server Dani Sorel said things were beginning to turn sour before she left Local 311 on Dec. 16, which abruptly locked its doors and turned off the lights on Friday.

Sign on the front entrance of Local 311.
Sign on the front entrance of Local 311.

“Job security is a big thing especially in winter for servers, so I started looking around because I had a gut feeling that things were not going well for the restaurant,” she said. “We stopped ordering from a big distributor and went to picking little things up at the grocery stores.”

Sorel acknowledged that her last pay cheque from owners Dave Ashford and MJ Doyle bounced, but was thankful to get it quickly rectified.

“I feel incredibly grateful that my situation was swiftly dealt with, although I still have another pay cheque that I submitted,” said Sorel, who started under the previous owner Billy MacKendrick in April last year.

“I never had any issues working with the former owners,” continued Sorel. “Everyone I worked with and served were all great people. They were always very kind to me and always made sure our cheques came out and on time.”

Ashford and Doyle became the new owners of the restaurant on Aug. 3. On the Local 311 Facebook page they state: “We promise to always do our best and not let you down.”

The Journal Pioneer reached out to the pair on Saturday but so far has been unable to reach them.

Sorel said she is concerned for the current employees.

“They are wonderful people, and everyone deserves job security and pay cheques that are going to clear.”

A current server spoke to the Journal Pioneer anonymously for fear of reprisal.

“We went to get our pay cheques on Friday and the owners said they were closed and filing for bankruptcy. I drive a long way to work and came to collect and deposit my cheque thinking I would make my car payment and what not,” said Adam (not his real name).

“I haven’t been working with the restaurant long, but when I came onboard staff were complaining about not being paid. The owners covered it up by saying their bank account got frozen and they were working on getting the pay,” he continued.

Adam said the restaurant is down to a “skeleton staff consisting of five servers and two cooks” as a result of the pay disputes.

“On Wednesday a staff member went in to discover there was no propane for heat, so the owners cancelled everyone’s shift and then reopened on Thursday for karaoke. They operated the restaurant, just the two of them and the DJ entertaining customers.”

In a staff Facebook message sent on Friday at noon, Ashford declared the business had gone bankrupt as a result of theft in excess of $100,000.

An excerpt from that message reads:

“If anyone knows who did this (the alleged theft) please let them know that it was them who closed us down and put you all out of a job and even though we are done does not mean the investigation is done.”

Also in the post the restaurant owners stated the alleged theft is being investigated by the Summerside Police Service’s major crimes unit. When contacted Saturday, police officials asked the Journal Pioneer to contact them again on Monday to speak to an official spokesman.

Adam stated all the staff are furious and want answers.

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