Striking Tasty Buddha cook Dustin Horn protests outside the restaurant Saturday. Employees say there has been a history of bounced checks.

 
Ericka Winterrowd, Alligator

Tasty Buddha, a local Asian cuisine restaurant, has officially closed the doors to both its locations due to insurmountable debt.

Owner Parker Van Hart posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page Monday explaining the debt and requesting financial help.

The post called the chain “viable businesses” but states that it is in a “very dangerous situation.” The business dropped from $250,000 in debt to $75,000 in debt, but the employee strike over the summer changed that.

Van Hart said as of Tuesday, both locations have officially shut down.

“Because of the strike, we are in a situation we can’t dig out [of],” he said. “I’ve tried to raise the money. There’s no options left and nothing left to say. We’re done.”

Mo Sherman, a 24-year-old former cook at Tasty Buddha, said the employees didn’t know the restaurant was closing until Tuesday, when the general manager arrived a few hours into the workday and announced it.

Employees were told they may not receive their last paychecks right away, Sherman said, because the owner is trying to sell restaurant equipment to cover expenses.

“Hopefully, this weekend he can sell the equipment for the last two weeks’ paychecks,” he said. “Legally, we are owed that. It’s the matter of how soon or how late we’ll be paid that is up in the air.”

Sherman said the strike affected the restaurant’s financial situation, but it couldn’t have been the entire cause for the restaurant shutdown.

Sherman, who has a second job, said he was concerned for the rest of the staff because the news came so suddenly, but he said he thinks Van Hart had reasons for delaying news of the shutdown.

“I’m sure this has been in the works for a while,” he said. “The only reason he didn’t tell any of us was because he was trying to work something out before he had to close. I’m sure the reason he kept it from us was to try to save it if at all possible.”

Tara Bushoven, a 25-year-old Gainesville resident who has frequently enjoyed Tasty Buddha, said she is disappointed.

“They have great food, a chill atmosphere, a friendly staff and Swamp Head on tap,” she said. “They will absolutely be missed.”

A version of this story ran on page 1 on 10/9/2013 under the headline "Tasty Buddha closes its two locations due to debt"