NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Unemployed is not how Brenda Waybrant expected to start her day Friday, August 26th.
“Coming in to see a sign on the door saying that we didn’t have a job anymore was changing you know,” Waybrant said.
But the lights were off, doors were closed and signs were up outside of Chaatable Indian Street Food, letting customers and workers know the restaurant had shut down.
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“You never want to lose your job in the first place, but then to find out from a note on the door and not a phone call or an in-person conversation from the owners was kind of like a knife in the back,” said Waybrant.
Waybrant had only been working at the Nashville restaurant for a few months but says rumors were swirling about the location closing.
She says last Tuesday the owners told staff the building was up for sublease pushing workers to begin forming a union.
“The reason why we wanted to picket was that Tuesday we were told there would be jobs for us at other locations,” said Waybrant. “Thursday our staff members were told there’s not options for you all to work in other locations, and that’s after they found out about our unionization effort.”
Chaatable is owned by celebrity chef Maneet Chauhan. Her restaurant group Morph Hospitality also owns other restaurants around Nashville.
After Waybrant and her colleagues found themselves without a job they spent the weekend protesting outside Chauhan’s other restaurants.
“It’s a sucky situation to be put in,” said Waybrant. “The labor market is still shifted. It’s hard to find a job that’s going to pay all your bills, especially in a city that’s expensive as Nashville is.”
Waybrant says she and her colleagues are asking for two weeks’ severance and an explanation about why this all happened. “We deserve to know what our financial situation is going to be in the future,” she said. “Not have the carpet yanked from underneath us by our bosses.”
News 2 reached out to Morph Hospitality Group who sent us this statement Monday afternoon:
“Closing a business you love is never an easy decision to make. Chaatable was on the market for the last 6 months, a fact which was shared with the entire team. Management and ownership personally talked to team members multiple times about the possibility of a closure and the hope of a relocation. The fact is that Chaatable closed because it was not a sustainable business post-Covid. We were struggling to get optimal revenues and were running in losses for several months. It did not close because of any unionization efforts. The timing of the closure on Friday was a result of an email from our landlord agreeing to the necessary lease assignment, after a long period of ongoing discussions.
A $500 severance/goodwill payment per employee has been paid out. It was given in person to those who were at Chaatable, working as scheduled, when we notified them of the closure. For others, including those who were a “no call no show,” severance was mailed out with separation notices. All employees were informed that, if we were hiring at our other concepts, they would be on top of the list and multiple Chaatable employees are already working at Mockingbird.
We have worked so hard to bring diverse, ethnic cuisine to the Nashville market and have always supported local restaurants and hospitality workers. We would never close a restaurant we love if it wasn’t a necessary business decision. It saddens us that a small minority of Chaatable workers are making multiple false claims. Most of these are the same employees who were a “no call no show“ for work this past Friday, when we shared the news in person with staff. Other Chaatable employees who have been standing up against these false claims now face online bullying, which saddens us further and we hope that sharing the facts will put an end to the harassment. Chaatable has been such a source of joy for us, and we are hoping to be able to find it a new home soon.”