At Little Caesars Pizza, 1088 Washington Square Center, the string lights around the entrance were on, dozens of bottles of soda filled the fridge, and a few sauce containers graced the shelves Thursday evening.
However, a folded up Franklin County Health Department inspection notice, slipped in the door frame, declared the shop as permanently closed. This was not due to sanitization violations or complaints, said Keith Brake, environmental public health specialist No. 2.
“We are left with a mystery,” he said.
The grab-and-go eatery had been in Washington for over 10 years. From the parking lot, it appeared still to be in working condition.
Brake put the notice up Thursday morning to certify a handwritten sign already hung by employees announcing the closure. Now the store may only reopen with the health department’s approval, he said, to prevent problems such as spoiled food being served.
The building’s leasing agent Gary Essman said the restaurant was delinquent on rent. He learned that the store had closed when he called the neighboring business Eyecare Washington earlier this week.
Eyecare Washington manager Becky Hillman said she became aware of the vacancy after returning to work from Memorial Day Weekend.
“Tuesday is when we noticed it,” she said. “Very strange, isn’t it?”
She said the Little Caesars Pizza is normally very busy.
On Wednesday, she heard “a little rattling around,” she said. Immediately after, the handwritten sign appeared on the door announcing the shut down.
Another sign taped to the door had a clock on it, and as it hung Thursday evening, the hands signified employees will return at 6:25.
Brake said the department had last inspected the restaurant July 23, 2020, and it had no faults. “We hadn’t been in there in a while. There were no complains, no anything.”
The location opened in August 2010 under brothers Matt and Scott Buesse, who also owned three other locations in Troy, St. Peters and Cottleville, according to previous Missourian reporting. It was unknown as of press time if they are still the owners.
The customer service manager for the Little Caesars corporate office, who did not want her name included in the story, said she was unaware of the closure. She said the store was still open in the company’s system, but there could be a lag in information. She did not release the names of any current franchise owners.
When The Missourian attempted to reach Little Caesars Pizza employees Thursday, the location’s phone line was disconnected. The Facebook page shared no information about the closure, but there was a post at 4 p.m. Thursday that encouraged customers to order takeout, which would enter them in sweepstakes to win hockey-themed furniture.
“There have been people coming and going on all week looking for them, so I’m really not sure what happened, but I bet a lot of people want to know,” Hillman said.