MACON, Ga. — Little Caesars Enterprises Inc. says owners of five Central Georgia shops tried to stay in business for months after their franchise was pulled due to health problems.
The pizza company filed a federal lawsuit seeking $75,000, legal fees, and other damages from the couple that owned the Macon and Warner Robins stores.
The Little Caesars locations in Macon and Warner Robins involved in the suit have been closed now for several weeks.
The suit, filed in May, names Reyes 1 Inc., along with its owners, Jason Harmon and Artemisa Harmon.
It accuses them of breach of contract, and then illegally using the franchise branding, name, and business software even after the company pulled its franchise back in May.
The lawsuit tells a story of repeated failed inspections, accusing the owners of failing to meet the company's health, food safety, and sanitation standards.
The company says it inspected Reyes' five Macon and Warner Robins Little Caesars locations from Nov. 12-14, 2018.
The suit says that inspection found "dead mice, mouse droppings, and other evidence of pest infestation, and offering expired food for sale."
The company says it issued a "notice of default" saying that Reyes 1 would lose its franchise if the problems were not corrected.
A follow-up inspection in March found many of same problems, including "expired food still being offered for sale, and expired ingredients being used," according to the suit.
Little Caesars says it sent Reyes 1 a notice of default again on March 29, ordering the owners to fix the problems or lose their franchise.
The suit says an April 29 inspection found that conditions, "had deteriorated to the point that it posed a significant significant health risk to Little Caesars customers."
It adds, "Cockroaches were observed in the kitchen, and the restaurant and equipment generally were in an unsanitary condition."
The suit says the owner agreed to close, bring in an exterminator, and fix the sanitation problems, but Little Caesars said he could not reopen until they gave written permission.
According to the suit, when Little Caesars visited again on May 10, the restaurant was open and running, with "evidence of a continuing pest infestation including cockroaches and mouse droppings, and food residue throughout the kitchen, which was also in a general state of significant ill repair."
On May 14, Little Caesars says it sent Reyes 1 a notice terminating the franchise agreement.
According to health inspection reports, Little Caesars stores in Macon were operating in Macon as recently as mid-July.
John Hurd filed a complaint on July 15 to the Bibb County Magistrate Court claiming that his company, SJT, Inc., repaired restaurant equipment at the Little Caesars on North Avenue, but was never paid.
In the complaint Hurd says the company never got a response after sending outstanding invoices to Jason Harmon. The claim is for over $4,000.
13WMAZ has repeatedly attempted to reach the owners of Reyes 1 for comment, but they have declined to comment.