Tigards T.G.I. Fridays closes doors after long legal battle
- Geoff Pursinger
- The Times - News
T.G.I. Friday's corporate officials claim the local owners refused to pay franchise fees totaling $4.5 million
The T.G.I. Friday's restaurant on Washington Square Road has closed its doors, after what the company's spokeswoman Amy Freshwater called a 'lengthy legal battle.'
The restaurant's doors are now locked. A note on the door tells customers that they were closed due to 'business reasons.'
Employees worked Sept. 25 to load computers and other equipment from the restaurant into moving trucks.
'We really don't know what's going on,' said Mary Lee Smith, general manager. 'Corporate isn't shedding any light on it, but all my equipment is gone.'
Smith said that the closing of the store was a surprise to her.
Calls to Kobra Associates, the parent company who owns the Tigard franchise, went unreturned. An automated message on the company's answering machine said that the closing of the Tigard branch - as well as nine other T.G.I. Friday's in California and the Northwest - were due to the failing economy.
But that reason might not be exactly the case, Freshwater said.
'We have worked closely with the owners for more than two years trying to find a solution,' she said in a written statement.
'The owners of these restaurants have not met their obligations to T.G.I. Friday's Inc. during this time. We truly believe we have exhausted all reasonable possibilities to resolve this situation and have concluded that we have no further options other than enforcing the court order from Aug. 20 which requires the owners to cease using the T.G.I. Friday's brand name.'
That court order stemmed from a civil suit filed by T.G.I. Friday's Inc. in a Dallas, Texas, Federal Court, alleging that Mike Alizadeh, owner of Kobra Associates, and his father Abe Alizadeh, had opened franchise agreements with T.G.I. Friday's for 10 West Coast stores - including Tigard and Vancouver, Wash. - and then failed to make their monthly payments to the company. By October 2008, the document stated, Alizadeh owed the Texas-based restaurant company more than $4.5 million.
Because of this, T.G.I. Friday's suspended Alizadeh's license in December 2008, Freshwater said, meaning that signs, recipes, uniforms - anything that claimed that the restaurants were affiliated with T.G.I. Friday's Inc. - would have to go, effectively closing the franchises down.
But, the court document claims, that didn't stop the restaurants from staying open for nearly a year.
A judge ruled in favor of T.G.I. Friday's, and the 10 restaurants owned by Alizadeh were closed Sept. 18.
Seventy-five employees at the Tigard T.G.I. Friday's lost their jobs, according to Great Northwest Restaurants, a subsidiary of Kobra Associates. Across the 10 T.G.I. Friday's, a Great Northwest spokesperson said, more than 450 people found themselves without work.
Freshwater said that although there are no other T.G.I. Friday's left open in Oregon, or Southwest Washington, 'if a team member is interested in transferring to another location we will do what we can to assist with that transfer.'
Meanwhile, the automated message said, talks are in the works to reopen the restaurants as soon as possible.
In December, Kobra Associates also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for 71 Jack in the Box restaurants it operates.
The 10 T.G.I. Friday's closed by Kobra Associates, besides Tigard's, were in Roseville, Elk Grove, Vacaville, and Sacramento in California, and Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Puyallup and Spokane, in Washington.