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Employees take issue with abrupt closure of only Chicago city Uncle Julio's restaurant

Employees angry about closing of only Chicago city Uncle Julio's restaurant
Employees angry about closing of only Chicago city Uncle Julio's restaurant 00:47

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Several employees of Uncle Julio's from Scratch on North Avenue gathered outside the restaurant on Friday to protest its sudden closure two days earlier.

They said it came as a total shock.

A sign on the door posted when the restaurant closed Wednesday, and still up Friday, said the company has offered staffers positions at other Uncle Julio's suburban locations.

But workers were still angry.

"We didn't get any formal notice as of yesterday, just a message at 5:14 in the morning saying we have a mandatory meeting, to come at 10 that same day," said former Uncle Julio's trainer, bartender, and server Augustin Casas, "and so there wasn't really any communication to us as staff, and upon arriving, everything else was already clearing out. There's people doing, we don't even know."

Casas said that at the mandatory meeting, the staff was told that the restaurant location was officially out of business. They were told the rent was too high.   

He said the North Avenue Uncle Julio's had "committed, loyal staff members that have been here for at least five, 10, even 32 years." He said there were about 70 employees at all – about 50 of whom worked full-time.

Casas said he has another job as a paraprofessional for the Chicago Public Schools. But that is not the case for everyone who worked at the restaurant, he said.

Casas said when staffers were told the location was closing, they were given a sheet on which they were asked to choose their preference for another Uncle Julio's location and their preferred hours.

But he said staffers were also told that they were not guaranteed full-time employment at another location and that it would be at the discretion of management if staffers would be hired to work at another Uncle Julio's at all.

The location at 855 W. North Ave. on the Near North Side was the only Uncle Julio's in Chicago. It had been open since 1992.

The national chain still has locations at the Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, and Naperville, Orland Park, Lombard, and Vernon Hills.

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