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Ryan's closes its doors
City may lose up to $180,000 annually
Workmen begin removing the name from a sign in front of Ryan’s restaurant on Commonwealth Boulevard on Wednesday morning after the restaurant closed. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Thursday, June 21, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The city of Martinsville is bracing for an annual loss of up to about $180,000 in taxes and utilities as a result of the closing of Ryan’s restaurant on Commonwealth Boulevard on Wednesday, officials said.
“The Martinsville location was underperforming, and Buffets just made the decision to close it,” said Nathan Riggs, spokesperson for Buffets Inc., the parent company of Ryan’s and several other restaurants, including Old Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Fire Mountain and Granny’s Buffet.
The number of employees affected by the Martinsville closing was not available Wednesday.
Buffets announced in January that it would close 81 restaurants as part of its decision to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to media reports.
However, Riggs said the local closing is not part of the 81 announced closings. Most of those closings were made in the two days following the bankruptcy filing, he added.
The local closing was part of a continuing review of the company’s restaurants, Riggs said.
No other closings are anticipated in Virginia, “but there have been some closures in the past,” he added.
When asked why there was no advance announcement that the restaurant would close, Riggs said he could “not speak to that.”
Interim Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said the city stands to lose a total of between $170,000 and $180,000 annually as a result of the closing.
“It will be a significant hit,” he said.
Martinsville Commissioner of the Revenue Ruth Easley estimated the average total decrease in city revenues at $101,725, including meals and personal property taxes, and the fees for a business license, beginning next year.
She did not know if the company’s bankruptcy filing will affect its payment of personal property taxes.
Because the company owns the building at 361 Commonwealth Blvd., it is “still liable for that tax,” Easley said. She added that so far, the company has been “a good corporate customer” with her office.
The company also pays the city $84,000 annually for utilities — electricity, water, sewer and garbage service.
“If the building shuts down for a year and is mothballed,” Towarnicki said, the city would lose a significant portion of that money.
“We would assume there will be minimum utility usage just to keep the building functional — to keep the pipes from freezing, and if they are marketing the building, to keep the heat on,” he said.
Towarnicki said he does not know how much that would amount to because it would depend on several factors.
He noted that local businesses also might be negatively impacted by the closing. For instance, if Ryan’s uses natural gas, the Southwestern Virginia Gas Co. could experience a drop in business, as well as any other local vendors that Ryan’s used for goods or services, he said.
Around lunchtime Wednesday, Ryan’s employees were standing in the restaurant’s parking lot, notifying would-be customers of the closing.
A Ryan’s employee who declined to give a name said the restaurant closed at 8 a.m. Wednesday after serving its last meal Tuesday night.
“We all lost our jobs,” the employee said, as would-be lunch patrons pulled into the parking lot.
A van from the Southern Area Agency on Aging was among those vehicles. As it pulled up, another Ryan’s employee greeted the van’s driver with the news that the restaurant was closed.
“There’s no need to get out of your vehicle, sir. There’s no need to get out of your vehicle, ma’am,” the employee repeated. “We’re closed.”
Amanda Witt, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, said, “It is sad anytime a business closes, and it’s sad that they were not able to make it, but I encourage consumers to look at all the other great dining options in the area. There are other restaurants in the area that are prospering.”
Witt expressed sadness for restaurant employees who will lose their jobs.
“It is unfortunate that people will be losing their jobs. I certainly hope they will head to Virginia Workforce Center to take advantage” of the services that are available there for displaced workers, she said.