'Just a nightmare': Toronto restaurant shuts doors with no notice to staff

Lola's Kitchen, a popular brunch spot on Church Street, abruptly closed its doors on Monday with no notice and nothing more than a sign that read: "Lola's Kitchen is now permanently closed."

Between 40 and 50 people who work at Lola's Kitchen are without a job after the restaurant closed Monday

Jen Abergel, a former manager at Lola's Kitchen, says the sudden closure of the restaurant has left her feeling betrayed. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC News)

Lola's Kitchen, a popular brunch spot on Church Street, abruptly closed its doors on Monday with no notice and nothing more than a sign that read: "Lola's Kitchen is now permanently closed."

"We are deeply saddened (and angered) to inform our beloved community that we have closed our doors permanently," staff at Lola's wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday afternoon.

"Now all 45+ employees are unemployed due to the owner selling our building to a condo development and not giving us proper notice in order for us to find new jobs."

Jen Abergel​, who worked at Lola's for almost five years, says the situation "is crazy," and says staff had "no idea this was happening."

Abergel​ says one of her colleagues was walking by the restaurant on Monday afternoon and saw the sign and immediately spread the word to staff. She says if her colleague didn't walk by when he did, she'd have never known the restaurant was closed and would have "100 per cent" gone to work Tuesday morning.

It wasn't until around 2 p.m. Tuesday that the owner of the restaurant sent a letter to staff advising that the restaurant had officially closed on Sunday. The letter said staff will be receiving all unpaid wages plus three weeks of wages as severance.

"You just don't think that somebody who you've had a rapport with and who you've worked for for four-and-a-half years would do this to you," Abergel said. 

'It's just a nightmare come true'

The staff at Lola's knew for over a year that they would eventually be closing because of a condo development slated to be built at that location. But they thought they'd get more notice before the locks changed. 

"I've known for a couple years now that there was a development proposal for this whole block," Abergel​ said about the strip on Church Street south of Bloor Street.

"It would be more understanding if we got two weeks notice, but this was literally a sign put up in the door ... It's just a nightmare come true."

Signs that indicated Lola's Kitchen had closed appeared on the front door Monday afternoon. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC News)

Tenants at an apartment building next door that will also be torn down for the new development received an eviction notice in July that said they need to move out by Jan. 9, 2019.

Abergel​ says she assumed based on the eviction date the restaurant would be able to stay open until Christmas, and was never given a closing date by the owner.

The owner of the building, Elliott Sud, told CBC Toronto "staff were aware of [the restaurant] closing soon, and that it was moved up unexpectedly because the developer "has more than anticipated to do." ​Sud is also a chair on the board that is developing condos in the area.

Abergel​ says she feels like she betrayed her staff because she told them to stay to the end and everything would be ok.

"I feel like garbage about it," she said. 

"I think about all the families that are relying on this job and how many people are putting food in their kids' mouths with this job and now for it to just be closed, it's a lot of guilt."