Two former employees discuss Rosebud’s closing and overhaul
(Somerville Wire) – A neighborhood favorite, the historic Rosebud Restaurant & Bar has shut its doors after firing 55 of its staff on short notice. The restaurant’s new owner, Bindaas Concepts, cited an uncertain timeline for renovations and a new direction for the menu as reasons for the layoffs. Former employees Steph Giordano and Mariah Campbell bemoaned the loss of a workplace they called “a community” of immigrant, LGBTQ, and loyal workers.
When Bindaas Concepts purchased Rosebud from Alpine Restaurant Group in July of 2023, staff were told they would remain and Rosebud would grow, but not change. “The new owners told us they loved what Rosebud was doing and only wanted to expand on it,” Giordano said. Months later, Giordano and Campbell were called to an emergency meeting. The restaurant was closing October 1 and 55 staff were to be laid off, their manager explained. Many of the staff, new to the position, were ineligible for unemployment benefits.
“It was out of the blue,” Giordano said. That night, an employee posted the news to Facebook; public outcry and baseless rumors ensued. Days later, Rosebud issued a statement that Giordano and Campbell called “damage control” and “deceptive.”
“As soon as it was clear that we needed to shut down and revamp the space to accommodate the new concept, we let our existing Rosebud team know about the situation and gave them ample notice,” Rosebud said in a Facebook post. “This is probably the hardest part about our job as small business owners and about this industry, even harder than losing money, and we hope to have some of the staff back in the future if they want to rejoin the revamped Rosebud team.”
Mariah Campbell was active in the comments. “Rosebud’s statement was incredibly deceiving. I spoke out after that, they deleted my comment, and I got blocked,” she said. Rosebud claimed workers were invited to reapply and were given ample notice—Campbell and Giordano countered, ten days was insufficient and there was not any discussion of rehiring.
“We were a family at that restaurant and the new owners have destroyed it, for financial gain,” said Giordano. “Service workers already have a hard time finding help so to rip the rug out from people is baffling to me. They ruined that restaurant and I don’t think it’s going to work out for them.”
Campbell agreed, Rosebud was like family. “This is the first safe place I’ve had in so long; it just got taken away. That last day we were open, we had a little thing for the staff. Everyone was crying. It was such a heartbreaking thing to see. It broke my heart to see everyone break down and cry—it showed how this was so much more than a job.”
Though it’s typical for restaurants to close out of nowhere, Campbell said, Rosebud was so tight-knit, and turnover was so low, it compounded the loss.
“In the industry, it’s really typical for a restaurant to just close out of nowhere,” Campbell said. “But this was an extremely close community. I’ve worked here for nearly five years and the majority of people have been with me for over three. We have some staff that have been here 10 years. The turnover was incredibly low. [The previous owners] advocated for workers’ rights and saw us as people who want to grow. It really centered around making sure staff were cared for.”
Campbell described the staff as a community. Rosebud was a first job for many immigrant workers. The dishwasher made homemade pupusas for everyone and in her time, brought two of her grandchildren onto the payroll. It was the first place she felt safe, she told the staff. There was Spanish education during pre-meals, in which the management handed out resources with industry terms and common sayings in Spanish.
“One of our bartenders has worked here for ten years, started out not speaking English at all. He’s worked his entire career working at Rosebud and is now completely fluent in English,” Campbell said. “
“It’s things like this that the public doesn’t see,” Campbell said, noting most of the team belonged to the LGBTQ community. Rosebud was a refuge for many of the staff to lean on one another.
For a while, it seemed Bindaas Concept was aligned with these values. Campbell and Giordano described that the owners regularly stopped by the restaurant, even while the sale was pending, to help support employees and perform much-needed maintenance and repairs. That made it all the more puzzling why they closed. Rosebud seemed well aware of the issues in the building, as well as the restaurant’s strong sense of community.
In the months since buying Rosebud, Bindaas supported Giordano through an entire redesign of the bar program and bought new glassware, caddies, and other service items. They also tended to overdue repairs and made concerted efforts to improve maintenance. “We were excited,” Campbell said. “Guests would ask how new ownership was going and we would tell them we were excited. It just seemed to be going well,” Campbell said.
But when Rosebud closed, it cited financial reasons, which confused workers.
“What doesn’t make sense to me is that when we got acquired, we were full steam ahead. I was buying new things for the bar program and they told me not to hold back, to write a list. They seemed supportive of every need and fully aware of what they were taking on,” Giordano said.
“People had their real origin stories here and I think they deserved better. I think that’s what they’re losing, the people. I’ve never come across a place that cares so much about us and what we do.”
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Ryan DiLello is the staff reporter for the Somerville Wire