By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ
COOKEVILLE – As many local restaurants reopened for dine-in and takeout service last week, long-time Cookeville favorite Logan’s Roadhouse sits empty with its future uncertain after parent company CraftWorks Holdings filed bankruptcy, furloughed and then terminated the company’s 18,000 employees.
Logan’s Roadhouse “temporarily” closed all of its restaurants on March 18 in response to COVID-19 and furloughed all its workers. Those workers were sent an email on March 31 revising their status from “furloughed to terminated” and notifying them that the company’s existing benefit plans were being terminated effective March 31, 2020.
Logan’s Roadhouse was established in Lexington, Ky. in 1991. In late 2018, Craftworks Holdings bought Logan’s Roadhouse and moved CraftWorks’ home office to Nashville.
CraftWorks, at one time, operated more than 330 domestic restaurants in 39 states and Washington, D.C. Its other brands include Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, Rock Bottom Restaurant, BreweryBig River Grille & Brewing Works, ChopHouse & Brewery, A1A Ale Works, Ragtime Tavern Seafood & Grill, Seven Bridges Grille & Brewery, and Sing Sing, a Big-Bang dueling pianos concept.
Craftworks Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2020 after shuttering 37 underperforming stores. The company planned to keep it 261 corporate locations open throughout the bankruptcy, but then as the company was battling through, the COVID-19 crisis devastated the restaurant industry.
CraftWorks subsequently alerted the federal bankruptcy court in Delaware that it could not secure funds to keep its operations even partially open and would have to close every store. It held open the possibility of reopening the units at a later date. All of the company’s stores were closed on March 18.
In another devastating blow to the company, CEO Hazem Ouf and CFO Jim Lebs were fired for passing along $7 million in sales taxes to states where the company’s various brands were in operation without the knowledge and prior approval of court-appointed supervising parties, according to a court filing.
Mark Buehler, a former leader of Old Chicago and O’Charley’s, was named CEO on March 20.
Craftworks recently petitioned the bankruptcy court and was approved to terminate the leases of 80+ locations, including five Logan’s Roadhouse locations and one Old Chicago location in Middle Tennessee. The Middle Tennessee Logan’s Roadhouse locations listed in that filing are:
• Music Valley Drive near Gaylord Opryland.
• Sam Ridley Parkway in Smyrna.
• Mt. Juliet Road in Mt. Juliet.
• Cumberland Center Boulevard in Lebanon.
• Chandler Drive in Dickson.
The Old Chicago restaurant listed is on Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro.
The leases on the property housing the CraftWorks Holdings corporate offices in Broomfield, Co. and Nashville were also approved for termination. The company is moving from its corporate headquarters in Nashville to a smaller nearby facility that the debtors leased and historically used for training purposes.
CraftWorks is retaining the fewer than 25 “Remaining Critical Employees” and is cutting expenses “to the bare minimum” with the goal of reopening previously profitable restaurants once the virus crisis subsides, the company said in a court filing.
Many former employees of Logan’s, and parent company CraftWorks, were left stunned to find that even after some had given many years of service to the company, they were immediately ‘thrown to the wolves.”
“Because the plans are being terminated, there will be no COBRA continuation coverage available,” said the email that gave employees no grace period to find other coverage.
Business experts wonder if the company will be able to survive the double whammy of the bankruptcy and COVID-19. The Wall Street Journal said that about half of its eateries may be closed for good.
Reports surfaced earlier this week that the Logan’s Roadhouse in Shreveport, La. would reopen on May 8.
“We’ll reopen for carryout and delivery May 8 in Shreveport with the Bossier store about a week or so behind it,” said CraftWorks media representative Josh Kern, in an interview with the Shreveport Times.
The fate of the Cookeville Logan’s Roadhouse is unknown. Craftworks corporate officials have not answered calls or returned messages regarding the local unit.