Ex-Uncle Julio's workers shocked by Lincoln Park location's closure: 'I come in... and we're closed'

Maher Kawash Image
Friday, March 29, 2024
Ex-Uncle Julio's employees shocked as Chicago location suddenly closes
Former employees were shocked as Uncle Julio's Mexican from Scratch restaurant suddenly closed its Chicago location on North Avenue in Lincoln Park.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Uncle Julio's in Lincoln Park is now closed after 30 years of serving Chicagoans on North Avenue.

The news of Uncle Julio's closing its doors this week shocked the employees at the restaurant, as they told ABC7 they had no notice until a mandatory meeting was suddenly scheduled Wednesday morning, informing them they no longer have jobs.

The Mexican restaurant was located at 855 W North Ave.

I feel like that was unfair... and I just feel like they could've done this totally different,
Ruby Buendia, former Uncle Julio

Former employees gathered outside the restaurant Friday to voice their frustration with the decision.

"I worked Tuesday night... I come in Wednesday morning and we're closed," 10-year employee Natalie Dominguez said.

SEE ALSO | Branko's Sandwich Shop, Lincoln Park mainstay for nearly 50 years, closing Friday

The restaurant released a statement this week thanking customers for 30 years in the neighborhood. The statement also said all other locations remain open, and the Chicago was closed due to rising rental rates on their lease.

"Our employees have all been offered positions at our other restaurants so they can continue as valued members of the Uncle Julio's family," the statement from Uncle Julio's president RJ Thomas read.

However, some employees say that's not the case. Ruby Buendia was a manager at the restaurant who says she wasn't offered a position at another location.

"I feel like that was unfair, because I was working my butt off for them, and I just feel like they could've done this totally different," Buendia said.

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"They gave us a bid sheet saying to choose our preference of location and choose our hours, but we won't be guaranteed full time, and they said it'll be at their discretion if they want to hire us or not," former employee Agustin Casas said.

The other hurdle for the employees comes with transportation, as many say they don't have cars or the means to transfer to one of Uncle Julio's locations in the suburbs.

"There are no other uncle Julio's in the city, and as a single mom I don't have a car," Dominguez said. "How am I going to get there?"

A similar situation recently happened with the Signature Room in the former John Hancock Center, which closed abruptly in September. A federal judge awarded those employees with $1.5 million in back pay this week, saying the employer failed to give a 60-day notice of shutting down.

The doors are now closed at Uncle Julio's, and the former employees told ABC7 they are going to hire a lawyer to pursue legal action against the restaurant.