Central Florida Red Lobster locations to be auctioned off as employees hunt for new jobs

ORLANDO, Fla. — James Berke said the first clue he was out of a job was when he checked his schedule app and saw nothing but a notice that his Red Lobster location was closed.


Berke had worked for the chain at their Ledgewood, NJ location for three years, and said he first thought it was the latest in a series of power losses that forced temporary shut-downs.

He said employee relations didn’t know anything about his store, so he called his general manager.

“My general manager confirmed no, we’re closed for real, like forever,” Berke recalled. “She had just found out that day too.”

Read: Multiple Orlando Red Lobster locations listed as ‘temporarily closed’

Berke’s location is one of more than 50 now being auctioned off by liquidator TagEx Brands. Each location, including ones in Altamonte Springs and on Sand Lake Road, are winner-takes-all buys, according to founder Neal Sherman. He said all items must be removed by Friday.

“Our goal with online auctions is to prevent high-quality items from being discarded in landfills, instead promoting their sustainable reuse,” he said. “This approach economically benefits the original owners, promotes reusability, and offers buyers reduced prices.”

Nation-wide, the number of closures was closer to 120, according to a Facebook post by the mayor of Danville Illinois.

Read: Red Lobster turmoil: What to know

WFTV saw equipment and furniture being hauled out of the location on West Colonial Drive in Orange County, which was closed but not on the auction list.

Red Lobster didn’t explain why it closed the stores that it did. Berke said his location was among the highest-performing Red Lobsters last year.

However, like many analysts, he blamed the chain’s endless shrimp menu items for dealing a near-fatal blow to the already struggling chain.

Read: Report: Red Lobster considers filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

“We were hitting all our profit goals and then adding the shrimp happened,” Berke said. “We knew we were losing money last year. So why would they keep it for like six, seven months at such a low price model that no restaurant can make money?”

That wasn’t the only question Berke had for the Orlando office. With Red Lobster putting a business-as-usual face online, he wanted to know why corporate leaders believed it was OK to strand their workers after calling them all in for Mother’s Day.

Some of his coworkers, he said, had been with the store for 20 years and didn’t know how they’d make rent or pay their bills this month.

“Basically throwing them out onto the streets to figure out what they’re going to do for their livelihood,” he commented. “It’s really disappointing.”

WFTV reached out to Red Lobster for comment but didn’t get a response.

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