It was early afternoon when Sandra Dietz of Westminster pulled up to the front of the Ruby Tuesday restaurant prepared to order some lunch, but it quickly became apparent that lunch would have to be served somewhere else.
A paper sign had been taped to the now-locked front door that read, “This Ruby Tuesday location is closed. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you ...”
The sign was just above another decal on the glass door. That one read, “Now hiring team members.”
“Well, I wasn’t surprised. I figured they would be closing eventually,” Dietz said, having resigned herself to finding another place to eat. "There wasn’t a lot of people.”
Rod Williams of Owings Mills came by just after 2 p.m. Tuesday. He had been dropping by the Ruby Tuesday location, at 210 Malcolm Drive in Westminster, between DoorDash deliveries for a bite to eat for the past couple of months, and came to really like the staff and the food. But he was always puzzled by one thing.
“Why is this place empty all the time? It’s a nice location,” Williams said. “I would come in here like this past Sunday. Football on. There was nobody.”
Either way, he said, “This saddens me, I’ll tell you.”
It’s unknown exactly why the restaurant shuttered its doors to the public. A man pushing a cart in the dumpster area of the restaurant Tuesday who identified himself as a manager said he could not comment and referred the Carroll County Times to the Ruby Tuesday corporate office.
The company responded to a voicemail with an unattributed statement sent via email from a public relations firm.
“While it is never an easy decision to close restaurants, the closures are a necessary step as we focus on executing on our long term growth strategy and building a stronger business for the future," the statement read. “We appreciate the communities that have supported us.”
Ruby Tuesday has shuttered more than 120 locations since 2016, according to reporting by Restaurant Business, with nine locations closed in just the first week of September, though the chain still operates more than 400 restaurants.
According to Stephanie Young, who until Monday night was a cook at the Westminster Ruby Tuesday, the location was closed during operating hours Monday night.
“Around like 7:30 p.m. the district manager comes in. There’s people eating, it’s the middle of dinner,” he puts signs on the doors saying, store closed for business and locks the doors from the inside, even though there are people still eating," she said. “The district manager says the reason is lack of profit, but the servers make good money. Even after he locked the doors last night, customers were still trying to get in.”
Young believes it was a corporate decision to close the restaurant and local management were just as blindsided as she was. She had been given a dollar raise on Friday.
“They didn’t know until he walked in last night,” Young said. “They had just ordered all this new equipment and gave me a raise and hired people and all this stuff. Our schedules are still made for like nine days out.”
Employees went in Tuesday to collect severance checks, according to Young, her own being $350.
“That’s still going to get taxed, you know,” she said. “One of the servers, she’s been there 20 years and her check was I think four-[hundred] something.”
Young also works at the Eldersburg Denny’s, and so has something to fall back on, but she said she hopes to interview with the Bob Evans next door to the now-defunct Ruby Tuesday location.
“They are really busy over there all the time,” she said.
As for what comes next for the Ruby Tuesday building, the corporate office isn’t saying, but Dietz knows what she would like to see occupy the location.
“I hope they get a nice fish place, like a Red Lobster,” she said. “That would be nice, because we always have to drive to Hanover [Pennsylvania].”
Williams had another suggestion.
“I’d like to see a Shake Shack. There’s not one out here. The next closest one is in Ellicott City,” he said. “Bring a Shake Shack out here and I think you won’t be able to keep people out of here, where you can’t get anybody in here.”