Update: Cafe Closing Leaves Customers, Employees In Dark

By: Chase Moffitt, Gary Smollen Email
By: Chase Moffitt, Gary Smollen Email

Omaha's restaurant on the river is closing temporarily for renovation, but for fans of Rick's Cafe Boatyard, any amount of time without it is too long.

Rick's closing has raised a lot of questions. The employees are concerned about what's next for them, customers want to know how the remodeling project will change their favorite restaurant and because Rick's has an exclusive lease to operate on Omaha's riverfront, now Parks and Recreation and the city legal department are going to sit down with Rick's.

Jim Kuhlmeyer was expecting to sit down at Rick's this weekend. He and his wife received Rick's gift cards from their daughter and they were going to treat her and her family. "Meet them for lunch and my daughter called to make a reservation and kind of got a run-around and not getting a direct answer about the gift certificate."

Jim knew something was up, but about the same time the employees of Rick's were being informed they were laid off while the restaurant is being renovated. Jim's happy the restaurant will return, so he'll hold onto the gift certificates until he can spend them in the new Rick's Cafe Boatyard.

Rick's corporate office in Indianapolis says they are closing temporarily to remodel, make some repairs and re-brand the restaurant. They plan to reopen in the spring.

“We've got families, we've got bills, we've got all kinds of responsibilities, how are we supposed to take care of it now?” said Micah Speights. “Everybody is out of a job.”

Speights, along with more than a dozen other employees, filtered into Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Wednesday. We're told owner Rick Albrecth informed them that they were being officially laid off.

The mayor's office said it was contacted Wednesday by Rick's to arrange a meeting with city parks, the city law office and the mayor's office to "close temporarily, re-brand and reopen in spring like a sign on the door says. However, employees said they were given little to no notice."

“A little bit of previous notice would have been somewhat okay because that gives us time while we have a job to find another job," said Stefanie Thomsen. "You could pay your rent easily in one weekend before, now you are lucky to make two or 300 a week.”

Thomsen said the flood of 2011 hurt business big time. “I've been here for three-and-a-half years now, so I've never seen it this slow and we all just kind of felt it coming." For the employees, a new year means the start of a new job hunt.

The city leased the 23-acre property in 2000 as part of plan to clean up the former Asarco lead refinery site. Rick's opened in December 2002.

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