East Side Mario's is likely the latest casualty of the economic downturn as the Italian restaurant has suddenly closed its doors, the chairman of the local restaurant association said.
"A business failure is always bad, no matter what sector," Bryce Herman said Tuesday. "You'd like to see everybody continue to be successful in the industry."
Diners who arrived at the restaurant in Aberdeen Mall on Sunday night found the doors locked with a sign thanking people for their patronage.
"This location is closed," the sign read.
Ken White had phoned the restaurant on Saturday inquiring if it would be open. His daughter told him she read on Facebook that it was closing and White wanted to use up $125 in gift certificates.
White told The Daily News he made two phone calls to East Side Mario's on Saturday — one to confirm the restaurant would be open on Sunday and a second call to set up a reservation for seven people for 5 p.m.
Staff told White the restaurant was taking reservations, which is why he was surprised when he and his family showed up at 4:55 p.m. on Sunday and were greeted by a locked door.
White was a regular at East Side Mario's, eating there a couple of times a month. He said the restaurant was always busy, which makes the closure even more surprising.
"It was one of our favourite places," said White.
Herman said the closure blindsided everyone, including the restaurant's employees.
"It doesn't sound like something that was predetermined. It certainly was one of those things that was, like, ka-boom," he said.
A press release from Prime Restaurants stated East Side Mario's operated in Aberdeen Mall for about 10 years and staff and the franchisees had worked together to overcome challenges.
There are no plans to re-open the restaurant, the press release revealed. The Vernon location also closed recently.
Herman said the closures are sadly a sign of the times. Some businesses succeed while others don't.
Phone calls to Aberdeen Mall were not returned by late Tuesday afternoon.