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CONTACT 13: Baja Fresh locations suddenly close

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 11:36:42-04

A popular restaurant with locations across Las Vegas suddenly shuts down. 

Contact 13 looks at how shocked employees are left empty handed and desperate for answers.  

'Eating well is a frame of mind' according to the website for Baja Fresh. But workers from nearly every Las Vegas location are not doing so well today. They're out of a job. Many saying their paychecks are no good.

Dozens of former Baja Fresh employees are hoping long time Las Vegas lawyer Matthew Callister can help their case. 

"I only got one paycheck for 70 dollars out of everything that I worked for the 2 months," says Estefania Rangel.

"I'm still waiting on my checks," says Michelle Martinez. "They owe me around $700."

Callister claims Malik Asif, who owns about 8 franchise locations, filed for bankruptcy in California. 

Several of his restaurants are locked and empty. There's an eviction notice on the door  in Boca Park.  

And financial troubles are just the latest issue for Asif's Baja Fresh restaurants.  Many were repeat offenders on Dirty Dining. The Health District closed one on Rancho and Craig 4 times in just a few months. 

Now, former employees are speaking out, saying that working extra hours off the clock was standard business. 

"So in other words, employees were being utilized as a vehicle, if that's accurate, for financing the business," says Callister.  "The deferral of payment of wages might have actually been the way they could stay in business a little longer."

We tried calling Malik Asif and left a message with his attorney, but got no response. 

We also called the Arizona based corporate offices for Baja Fresh which provided the following statement:

Although we never like to see any stores close, the decision to close a store is that of an individual franchisee, who is an independent business owner.  It is unfortunate to hear some of these franchisees’ employees are experiencing negative consequences resulting from these circumstances.  Moving forward, we encourage any of the employees who have been impacted to reach out to our corporate office with their concerns - (480) 362-4023.