BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The 9News Investigators have obtained copies of messages between Sammy’s Grill employees, including management at the Prairieville location, that seem to show a drastic reduction in the operations of the restaurant chain.
In the messages, one of the managers at the Prairieville location appears to tell employees the location will close until further notice, leaving the Highland Road location as the sole operating arm of the business for the foreseeable future.
“Prairieville will remain closed for a while. The plan is to go back to our roots and rebuild at Highland,” part of the message reads. “Once we build sales at Highland, then we can plan to open other locations.”
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter stopped by the Prairieville location Tuesday, Dec. 31, but no one was there during posted business hours.
At least two employees also tell WAFB the Creole Cabana on Burbank Drive will also close as part of the reduction. It’s unclear if this will affect the Oasis volleyball portion of that location as well, since Creole Cabana is just an anchor business in the Burbank Drive spot.
Owner, Sammy Nagem, disputed the Creole Cabana closure in the following statement to WAFB’s Scottie Hunter.
“The Creole Cabana will open on a limited basis to accommodate winter sports and tournament players until spring league begins in February when we will fully reopen.”
There’s a note posted on the front of the business, which says Creole Cabana will be closed from Monday, Dec. 23, 2019 to Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 for the Christmas holiday, but when WAFB stopped by the location Tuesday evening, the location was not open during listed business hours.
This comes amid a series of financial issues that have plagued the restaurant chain for months. During the week of Christmas, two locations were hit with an eviction lawsuit in court after the landlord claimed the owner of the popular restaurant had fallen behind on rent for at least two months. According to the suit filed in East Baton Rouge Parish, the restaurant owes more than $50,000 in unpaid rent for October and November at the Highland Road location. The monthly rate for the Highland Road location is $25,569.50. Late fees for unpaid rent are $1,278.48.
The suit also claims Nagem failed to furnish a copy of a certificate of general liability insurance for the Baton Rouge location.
“I have reached an agreement with the landlord to get the rent current,” Nagem told WAFB’s Scottie Hunter in an email on Dec. 27.
An eviction hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2020 in the 19th Judicial District Court. Judge Wilson E. Fields will preside over the case. Several employees have also come forward to the 9News Investigators, claiming they had not received paychecks and the checks they did receive have bounced in recent months.
One employee, Harley Ficklin, says she was given no warning that the Prairieville location would be closing and that she was even scheduled to work this week before she found out the location would be temporarily shut down.
“I went by there today to see if I could finally get paid and it was a ghost town. I called five or six times and it rang endlessly,” she told WAFB’s Scottie Hunter. “I just want answers.”
There’s no word at this time on how long the additional locations will remain closed, but Nagem tells WAFB’s Scottie Hunter those locations will reopen sometime in the future.
The Central location has also been closed for more than a month now, but the owner then told WAFB it was only until they could make repairs to a busted water pipe he says caused issues inside the restaurant. The Zachary location has been closed since June. The owner says that closure was to consolidate and reallocate resources for the restaurant.
Nagem did confirm the reduction at Sammy’s Grill locations, but vowed they would reopen in the following statement to WAFB’s Scottie Hunter.
“At Sammy’s Grill we are currently combining all efforts and resources to our Highland Road location to provide great guest experiences. As resources allow, we will reopen our other two locations in the very near future. We appreciate and continue to ask for our community’s support as you have for over 30 years.”
WAFB made the editorial decision to not the share the messages in order to not reveal the identities of any of the current employees and managers involved in the exchange.