Matsu Sushi closes, auction canceled
UPDATE: The Matsu Sushi restaurant auction scheduled for Wednesday afternoon has been canceled “due to circumstances beyond our control,” an update to the event posting reads.
WESTPORT — Matsu Sushi has closed once again — this time, it appears, for good.
Just weeks after reaching a settlement with former workers over a yearslong labor dispute, the popular downtown Japanese restaurant is going out of business and will hold an auction on Wednesday afternoon, according to an event posted Tuesday on Patch.com.
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“All fixtures, furniture and restaurant equipment to be sold. No limits or reserves. This auction is open to the public,” the post reads.
Among items to be auctioned are an ice machine, refrigerators, TVs, dining chairs, tables, Japanese decor and sushi prep equipment. The auction, organized by Metro Auctions, will begin at 2:30 p.m.
“This is unlawful. We have a lien on this restaurant,” said James Bhandary-Alexander, who represents two workers fired after refusing to complete a 36-hour shift in 2017.
A 2018 court decision prevents owners Ziqiao Cao and Kim Ming Cheng from selling the restaurant until it compensates the workers.
In November, Bhandary-Alexander and his clients — Liguo Ding and Jianming Jiang — celebrated what the attorney called a “very secure” agreement between the parties, which included the restaurant reinstating the workers and paying them $200,000 in back pay and returned deposits.
Now with the business up for auction, that agreement seems uncertain.
At the time of the closure, the workers had not yet returned to their jobs, as the labor relations board needed to first make a determination on the settlement terms. Once that was completed, the restaurant had planned a grand reopening, Matsu spokesperson Phil Oliva said.
Instead, it looks to make a grand exit.
Sarah Ahn, a Flushing Workers Center organizer who has helped the workers, said they were disappointed to find out about the auction through the workers’ attorney. The owner also allegedly didn’t give the workers their first installment of backpay due on Dec. 7.
“We’re now going to file for a judgement against the employer,” Ahn said. “We’re going to go full force ahead to get what these workers are owed.”
Doors close once more
Several protests and sudden closures marked a rocky year for Matsu, which had occupied the space at 33 Jesup Road for nearly two decades.
Confusion surrounded a temporary closure in April, when some patrons were reportedly told the restaurant was closing when, in fact, it underwent a renovation.
A notice issued Oct. 4 in front of the restaurant read its sales and use tax permit has been suspended, meaning no sales could be made at the location.
“The owners are resolving it, and in light of the other business dispute the restaurant has temporarily closed,” Oliva said at the time. “It’s planned to reopen in the coming days once it’s resolved.”
In recent months, the restaurant faced a decline in business due to the ongoing dispute with former workers, he explained.
“Basically the state was wondering why the sales tax remittance was lower than years past,” Oliva said. “We will show them the books and show them what the revenue is.”
Includes previous reporting by DJ Simmons and Sophie Vaughan; firstname.lastname@example.org