Donnie Wahlberg responds to controversy after North Carolina Wahlburgers restaurant abruptly shuts down
RALEIGH, N.C. — Music and television celebrity Donnie Wahlberg told WTVD the employees of the now-defunct franchise of Wahlburgers in downtown Raleigh will be taken care of.
“Certainly, any employee of (Wahlburgers) is of the utmost importance to me and my family and we will get on this immediately,” Wahlberg told WTVD in a private message from his verified account. “We are being brought up to speed on the specifics – and beginning the process of resolving this.”
Wahlberg, along with his brother Mark Wahlberg, are the celebrity backers of the burger joint with locations across the country.
The Raleigh franchise opened last May and shut down abruptly, just days after Christmas, amid allegations from workers of gross mismanagement and failed health inspections from the state.
“Nobody has reached out to me about this, directly,” Wahlberg said. “This specific location, among others, is franchisee-owned so it’s possible that we weren’t fully informed.”
Greg Pranzo, the Raleigh location franchisee, has not returned WTVD’s calls or emails to respond to claims from workers that many paychecks failed to clear their banks and that final paychecks on Dec. 28 bounced as well.
Katy Nester, a former bartender, and her fiance Luke Anders, a former line cook, said with nowhere else to turn they were compelled to reach out to the celebrity family directly for help resolving the loss of wages that left them scrambling to pay their rent.
After WTVD’s Joel Brown posted that plea on Twitter, with “mentions” of both Wahlberg brothers, Donnie responded late Friday night.
“Employees and customers are always our priority,” he said. “(They) will not be left high and dry.”