COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A local restaurant owner is being sued by former employees claiming they never got paid after the restaurant suddenly closed in January.

Zak Hood is the lead plaintiff on a class-action lawsuit filed against the owners of Hen Quarter.

Hood worked as a server at the Dublin eatery on weekends to supplement his income from his 9-to-5 job.

“It was a great environment to make money. Everyone that worked there – it was a great culture,” Hood said.

Documents filed by Hood’s attorneys in federal court contain an email to Hen Quarter employees from the restaurant’s management dated Jan. 11, informing workers that the restaurant was temporarily closing.

“Unfortunately, due to staffing shortages, covid related infections and very low sales caused by all the above, we have decided to temporarily close all our doors effective immediately. We will keep you up to date and posted on our re-opening,” the note said.

Hood said the statement seemed reasonable at first, until pay day came and went with no checks. He said management then promised a final paycheck the following Tuesday.

“That day came around, nothing happened. Couple more days come around, associates are starting to get a little angered, so we’re responding to this email chain looking for any communication,” Hood said.

The email chain was also submitted as an exhibit in the lawsuit.

“Can we get an update on what’s happening?” asked one employee in an email. “I’m not trying to be disrespectful or anything but we are getting ghosted by our managers.”

“I think we are all just disappointed at most in the lack of communication,” wrote another employee. “Kind of feels like we’re being lied to; it just doesn’t make sense.”

Hood said he and his attorneys tried multiple times to reach the Hen Quarter’s owner, Ron Jordan, and Jordan’s attorney. They never received a response, Hood said.

In an email dated Feb. 7, the day the complaint was filed in federal court, Jordan’s attorney Scott Birrer addressed the employees.

“First of course is that we all appreciate the difficult financial times you all are experiencing and we absolutely understand the situation you all have been placed in with the delay in payroll,” Birrer wrote. “It is Ron’s sincere hope to make everyone current and he is making every effort to that end, as he is genuinely distressed over the situation.”

The email said Jordan had received threatening messages, which were reported to police.

“We can make no promises regarding the eventual outcome as there are many issues aside from just payroll which must be resolved,” Birrer continued.

Hood said he and his former coworkers were never informed of plans to reopen or permanently close Hen Quarter. As of Wednesday, the restaurant in Dublin’s Bridge Park neighborhood still had a sign taped to the front door asking customers to stay tuned for reopening plans.

The lawsuit claimed that defendants violated state and federal labor laws. It asked for unpaid wages and tips, as well as additional damages and attorney fees.

While Hood estimated he’s owed roughly $700 in tips and wages, he said, “There were servers that were owed $3,000, $4,000.”

The same day Hen Quarter employees learned they were out of a job, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce announced Jordan was taking over 21 Donatos Pizza restaurants in Indiana.

“How can you buy these pizza shops, and then turn around and paid — your employees that have worked so hard, set this image of your restaurant, and just take their funds?” Hood said.

Jordan told NBC4 Investigates he understands why his former employees would have those questions.

“I get that,” Jordan said. “That’s been the toughest part about all this, is being painted in a light that isn’t true.”

Jordan said the money for the pizza restaurants came from an outside investor. According to the Chamber of Commerce announcement, Jordan’s partner is former NBA player Michael Redd, who owns a venture capital business called 22 Ventures.

“It’s a deal of people who just believed in me and were able to help me essentially take a role to continue to be viable for my family,“ Jordan said. “My failure at Hen Quarter is my failure at Hen Quarter, you know? The Donatos deal was something that was in the works many, many months before we ever got to the inevitable failure, and it just hit at the same time.”

Getting emotional, Jordan maintains that Hen Quarter went under because of the pandemic.

“I would give my shirt off my back to any person that ever has worked for me in my past,” Jordan said. “We’re not talking to the employees that understand who I am and what I’ve provided, the amount of personal capital that I’ve expelled in this venture, the amount of overall loss that I’ve sustained and will continue to sustain.”

Asked whether the Hen Quarter employees would get paid, Jordan replied, “I’ve been advised by counsel not to comment about ongoing litigation. We can circle back at some point and talk about this later, once there becomes a clear path for everybody.”

Jordan said Hen Quarter is permanently closed.

In Ohio, it is against the law for employers to not pay workers within 30 days after the regularly scheduled pay date. At that point, workers can file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Commerce.