HOUSTON– Houston, another staple of our city shut down this week. The original 59 Diner closed its doors after 29 years. A sad story, but what’s worse is how some employees were treated when they showed up to get their final paychecks Thursday.
“I just asked for my money, and he (a friend of the owner) told me to ask the other guy,” says Bryan Malek, who waited tables at 59 Diner for 10 years. “And I asked the other guy and he told me to ask that guy. And I went back to ask him and he told me, ‘F— you.'”
A friend of the owner, A.J., who the staff believed to be owner Naveed Baig’s brother, explained the closing, “They just went bankrupt. I don’t know why all these people are doing what they’re doing.”
Bankruptcy was sort of inevitable for owner Baig, who has been fighting multiple lawsuits and had trouble even paying his employees. “For the last three months, our checks have been bouncing,” said Maria Harris, a waitress at 59 Diner for the last year:
Thursday, most everyone did get paid, though, in cash. “That way we won’t go to the bank ’cause they say they don’t have any money,” explained Harris.
The staff found out about the shutdown Monday after the breakfast shift. “They closed the door and sent every single employee out of the building like trash,” said Harris, “like we don’t need you no more.”
Tiye Glenn waited tables for eight years. “(Naveed) came in Friday night, didn’t tell us nothing,” she said, “He could have given us a warning.”
Frank Wallace, diner manager for 5 1/2 years agreed, “All I did was work hard for you, and these were my rewards.”
“If they can’t make it financially, they can’t,” said longtime customer Suzanne Page. “But it hurts.”
“This is a Houston legacy, a Houston historic diner, man,” bemoans Malek. “I’ve waited on J.J. Watt, Vince Young, Michael Strahan, Beyonce. And just to see a place like this to go to nothing, to nobody, just breaks my heart.”
Diner regular Mike Smith agrees. 59 Diner was his favorite place to eat. “Somebody needs to step up and take it over,” he said with a sigh. “It was a winner.”
And now, just another fond memory in Houston’s history.