Ryan's on Manchester Expressway closed without warning

Kyle Nazario

This sign was posted on the door of Ryan's the morning of Feb. 4. The store was one of 74 that closed within parent company Ovation Brands.
This sign was posted on the door of Ryan's the morning of Feb. 4. The store was one of 74 that closed within parent company Ovation Brands.

Ryan’s in Columbus was shut down this morning with no warning.

Robert Smith, the former general manager, said he wasn’t sure why there was a truck in the Ryan’s parking lot this morning until he saw it was a general manager he knew from another restaurant who had come to post a notice on the door that Ryan’s of Columbus was shutting down.

“We don’t know what happened,” Smith said. “He said we were shutting down. I thought he was joking until I kept talking with him.”

Smith said he understood why Ryan’s shut down the store with no warning, saying that customers wouldn’t come and employees wouldn’t work if they knew the place would go under soon.

The closing of the restaurant at 1900 Manchester Expressway comes amid a wave of closings across the company, according to Smith.

Ovation Brands, the parent company of Ryan's, was aquired by Food Management Partners in August 2015. According to a statement signed by vice president of business development Peter Donbavand, Ovation shuttered 74 underperforming restaurants to stabilize the company's performance. Ovation will give employees affected by the change the opportunity to apply for positions at stores still in operation. Donbavand said the company will also be adding staff at operating restaurants.

"We know that these decisions are not easy," he said in the statement. "However, we strongly believe that this direction is best for the long-term health of all brands."

James Kelley was the chef supervisor in charge of running the back kitchens at Ryan’s.

“I loved my job,” Kelley said. “I feel destroyed. Hopeless. I don’t think I’m ever gonna get a job because ain’t nobody ever gonna hire me because of my criminal background.”

Kelley said he’d worked 7 days a week for two and a half years since he finished serving 9 years and 7 months in prison for a methamphetamine conviction.

“I’ve got six kids and not a dollar to my name,” Kelley said as he helped move chairs from the restaurant outside. “I ain’t gonna be okay. I’m going to start looking for a job tomorrow.”

Kelley, who said he lives paycheck to paycheck, was worried about not receiving any severance or any kind of check for another six weeks.

Kelley said the Manchester Expressway restaurant had not been heavily trafficked in recent months.

“They were coming, but they weren’t coming like they used to,” Kelley said. “There used to be 500 people in the restaurant at lunch. Now there would be 240.”

Smith disputes this, citing lease issues and the cost of fixing the sinkhole. According to Kelley, a sinkhole appeared on the property a year and a half ago. Smith estimated the cost of fixing it at $2 million.

“I’m hoping it’s for the better for all of us,” Smith said.