Four Boston Pizza locations in the Waterloo Region closed their doors on Jan. 24, 2020, after filing for bankruptcy, firing 190 employees.
Brian Haase, the former owner-operator, made a number of allegations Boston Pizza corporate said were false.
Haase formally owned Boston Pizza restaurants located in Waterloo, Kitchener, and Stratford. He estimates he has between four to five million dollars in debt. He says Boston Pizza corporate did not cooperate with his payroll account, and was therefore frozen by his bank.
Haase was a franchisee for four Boston Pizza locations for 15 years. In 2015, the locations saw a noticeable decline in revenue, which lead to the bankruptcy filing.
Haase said he contacted the Boston Pizza Head Office but did not receive any support for his claim. Eventually, he informed Boston Pizza and bank executives on Jan. 20 of the situation. The next day, his account was frozen.
Haase’s debt consultant, Alex Hunsen spoke on his behalf, saying he is devastated for the employees.
“To our shock, the very next day, the entire payroll bank account was frozen. The closing of the locations was triggered by the freezing of the bank accounts,” Hunsen said.
The sudden closure put 190 out of their jobs, as former employees say, with little notice of the decision at all.
“There was this dramatic email from our manager at like, five in the morning that was saying, ‘due to unfortunate circumstances, we are going to have to shut down’,” said Scott Lu, a former line cook.
The email was sent to staff of all four locations the same day the restaurants were shut down.
Former employees Tori Killian-Price and her partner Zachary Smith both worked at the Erb St. location in Waterloo.
“We trusted these people, we worked with them for a long time, and they just let us down,” Killian-Price said.
They enjoyed the work while it lasted, but wish to get paid now that it is over.
“I went to work on time, I did my job. It just feels like they just took the money that was made off our backs and ran with it,” Smith said.
He worked at the company for four years.
But Peter Blackwell, Vice President of Marketing and Communication with Boston Pizza International, which oversees 400 locations across Canada, gave Metroland Media a very different take on the situation on Feb. 4.
“We have seen Mr. Haase and his advisors make several claims. They’ve been, at a minimum, misleading and, in some cases, outright mistruths,” Blackwell said.
One claim made by Haase includes a $20,000 cost to file for bankruptcy.
This would have allowed for Haase’s assets to be liquidated, having his employees paid through the Wage Earner Protection Program.
Blackwell said Boston Pizza was not the only company Haase owed money to. “He owes funds to a number of other parties. He told BP that he would file for bankruptcy in two weeks,” Blackwell said.