The decision to close the successful Farmington chain restaurant came after corporate officials in Arizona chose to liquidate the overall company's assets to settle debts in bankruptcy court.
When the restaurant first opened in Farmington in May 2008, it was one of 10 El Paso Grill & Bar-B-Que chain locations.
Hurt by a weakened economy, only the flagship location in Glendale, Ariz., and the Farmington eatery remained as the company attempted to reorganize its debts through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Although the Farmington location continued to be profitable, sustained and severe losses at the Glendale restaurant were too much for the company to withstand, Farmington General Manager Joe Whittle said.
The company filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation Tuesday, he said.
"I was given notice late (Monday) night, just shortly before the store closed," Whittle said. "I came in this morning to let everybody know. We made all the phone calls we could."
The Farmington restaurant employed 30 people, eight of whom were full-time staff.
A corporate official in Glendale declined to comment on the closure.
"We opened up really strong and stayed strong for a good solid nine months," Whittle said.
The corporate financial struggles and bankruptcy court proceedings were common knowledge among the staff, employees said, but to come to work Tuesday and learn the doors were closed was a surprise.
"It would have been nice to get a notice if things were starting to come to an end," said Kayla DeHerrera, who worked part time as a restaurant hostess. "They used to (say), Oh, we're doing so good, we're holding the other restaurants up.'
"Everything was fine and dandy, and then all of a sudden we're closed."
Former server Charles Schroeder, who arrived for work Tuesday morning as scheduled before learning of the closure, said he's unexpectedly back on the job market after starting at El Paso Grill less than a month earlier.
"That's a little bit of a hardship," he said. "It wasn't a lot of notice, but life goes on."
Although chain restaurants continue to excel in Farmington, corporate connections sometimes can hurt the local business regardless of its success, Chamber of Commerce President Dorothy Nobis said.
"It's unfortunate ... that we become the losers in it," Nobis said. "It's a loss all around. It's a loss to the people who were working there, it's a loss to the community as a whole, it's a loss to the local economy."