Thirty-two employees of Ryan's Family Steak House were told as they arrived for work today (Thursday) that the restaurant had closed at midnight.

The popular buffet eatery was the home for several civic clubs and other community meetings each week.

Aimee Prince, a member of the Noon Optimist Club, said they were told to pick up their banners, plaques, flags and signs.

A manager who did not wish to be identified said the remaining employees were "packing up the store."

When asked for a reason for closing, she said: "The economy is bad."

Buffets Inc., parent company of Ryan's, said Wednesday it had filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, closing 81 restaurants across the country.

Mike Andrews, CEO of Buffets said: "“We deeply regret the impact on our dedicated associates in those restaurants that will be closed,”

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(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at and 505-1234.)