MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities restaurant abruptly closed on Christmas Eve, leaving customers in the dark and workers without paychecks.

James Deibel remains stunned at how the Champlin restaurant he co-owns — Thomas Reese Olive Oil and Bistro — now looks.

He says the other owner, who he is in the process of divorcing, shut the doors and cleaned out the place over the weekend.

“This was not a mutual company decision,” Deibel said. “I mean, this was an act by an individual. It was unfortunate, it’s confusing.”

The decision left employees without paychecks and customers with gift cards worth nothing.

Deibel says never intended for employees and customers them to be affected.

“I feel obligated to right that wrong, to make everybody whole,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

On Tuesday, customers were still stopping by the restaurant unaware the place had closed.

“It was great food,” customer Sheryl Steinman said. “I’m so surprised.”

A paper sign taped in the window which read “Closed” greeted customers, who were unaware of what happened.

“[I thought] maybe it’s closed for the day, but then I looked inside and it’s empty,” said customer Paula Blenkery.

Fourteen employees were also left without checks on Christmas Eve, so a couple of other local businesses — Nadia Cakes and Maverick’s — teamed up to make sure those workers got paid.

“It was a lot of kids that otherwise wouldn’t have gotten paid, obviously, and it was some adults that depended on that money to be able to put presents under their family’s trees,” Maverick’s owner Chase Franzen said. “I hope that, you know, the restaurant can figure it’s stuff out and either re-open or be able to pay their employees and make up for the lost wages.”

Deibel is grateful for their help, and vows to do what he can.

“I’m sorry, I apologize,” he said. “I did everything possible in my power legally to stop this, and I will continue to.”

Deibel hopes to re-open, but he told WCCO he has a small window to get the equipment back and to pay their lease.

WCCO not received a response from the other owner.

Champlin city officials say the business was in good standing. In fact, the city itself had just bought about 50 gift certificates to give volunteers. The city said it is now looking at options to get that money back.

Here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau for consumers who purchase or hold gift cards:

  • Use gift cards promptly because businesses do sometimes close unexpectedly.
  • If you are purchasing a gift card, BBB recommends using a credit card to pay since it affords you more protections.
  • If a business closes and you have an unused gift card, first reach out to the business to see if they plan to refund customers for the cards.
  • Check with the credit card issuer for their policy. There is chance that the cardholder will refund the money.
  • Call the 1-800 number that should be on the back of the card and ask the customer service agent if they allow for a return of the gift card.
  • If consumers have Groupon certificates, they should be able to get their money back through Groupon.
  • If a company files for bankruptcy, there are two primary options: Chapter 11 or Chapter 7.
  • – Chapter 11 means the company intends on re-organizing and will continue to do business as usual, and the courts will decide if the company needs to honor gift cards.

    – Chapter 7 means the company will be closing and they will liquidate their assets in order to pay creditors, and consumers are usually at the end of the line for refunds. Secured creditors and employees usually come first, and gift card holders will most likely need to file a claim in the case of Chapter 7 bankruptcies. Remember: This holds true for customers who have purchased products that have yet to be delivered.