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National chain plans to shutter 95 locations by September



TIMES PHOTO: ERIC APALATEGUI - The Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Beaverton's Murrayhill neighborhood closed abruptly on Friday, leaving about 35 employees jobless.Ruby Tuesday overlooking Beaverton's Murrayhill Pond has closed as part of the chain's recently announced plan to cut "underperforming" restaurants.

A Pamplin Media Group editor on Saturday morning reported that 75 employees were called in to pick up their final checks. Several of them were tearful.

Ironically, there was still a "Now Hiring" sign visible at the front of the restaurant. Some of the employees had been hired as recently as last week and the closure came as a surprise Saturday, a longtime Ruby Tuesday employee told Lake Oswego Review editor Gary Stein.

TIMES PHOTO: ERIC APALATEGUI - Beaverton's Ruby Tuesday restaurant closed with little notice on Saturday.The local closure is part of the company's new "Fresh Start Initiative" that includes streamlining operations and improving flagging sales. There are 724 Ruby Tuesday restaurants, most of them company owned.

In all, the chain planned to close about 95 locations.

JJ Buettgen, Ruby Tuesday's chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer, said the company is "taking the necessary steps to change the trajectory of our business.”

The Murrayhill location is the only one Ruby Tuesday in the immediate Portland area, but employees said the company also has closed its only other Oregon restaurants, located in McMinnville and Corvallis.

Alicia Almeida, a former server who lost her job in Beaverton, met a couple of former coworkers outside the Beaverton location early Monday afternoon and said the sudden layoffs were painful.

"I don't think words can express how it felt," said Almeida, also a Portland Community College student who is beginning to look for another job. "Everyone here is screwed."

Almeida said her mother was the manager of the McMinnville location and was treated even more shabbily than the sudden termination. Almeida said her mother and other managers lost accumulated vacation time and bonuses, which were worth about $9,000 in her mother's case, she said.

Almeida and coworkers confirmed that about five employees had been hired within weeks of the restaurant's closure and that the decision to shut down the Beaverton location appeared to be a surprise to local managers as well.

The company's review of restaurants leading to the closure decisions included looking at individual location's sales, cash flows, location, market position and the status of its lease, according to the Aug. 11 statement.

Almeida and other employees said they were told that Oregon's recent approval of higher minimum wages pushing up labor costs was one reason given why all of the state's locations were closed, but they felt the Beaverton location was doing fairly well.

The Beaverton building has an idyllic shaded deck overlooking the fountains of Murrayhill Pond, but the building also can be seen from busy Southwest Murray Boulevard. It is located in the Murray Scholls Town Center and years ago housed a Beaches restaurant.

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