Tully’s Coffee is closing its retail stores temporarily because they lack the coffee to continue serving customers, according to a company memo sent to managers Thursday afternoon. A spokeswoman said Michael Avenatti is no longer its owner, but employees say he’s in charge.

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Tully’s Coffee is closing its retail stores temporarily because they lack the coffee to continue serving customers, according to a company memo sent to managers Thursday afternoon.

“At this time we have very minimal coffee left in stores. Our goal is to have Opus, Bostwick, Clyde Hill and New Main operational for (as) long as we can tomorrow, but by end of day today all other retail business is temporarily suspended until coffee deliveries resume,” said an email from Tully’s project director, Krystal Tonning.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know how long this will take, so we need to prepare the stores to be closed for a couple days.”

Some stores closed Thursday, including those in West Seattle and the Virginia Mason campus. A story on the West Seattle Blog noted the closure of that neighborhood store.

The Tully’s email, which was reviewed by The Seattle Times, gave no details on when the stores may reopen but acknowledged managers have been having a rough time.

“Before we discuss a plan moving forward, we really would like to take a moment to applaud and praise the efforts you have given this past week. The amount of flexibility, teamwork and overall positive morale given in an incredibly confusing, frustrating and simply difficult time is once again astonishing.”

The memo provided some instructions on employee pay. “If your store closed early today, all scheduled employees will be paid for the remainder of the shift.”

It continued: “Employees may use accrued sick or vacation time for missed shifts while the business is temporarily suspended.”

Without specifics, the email did suggest Tully’s hopes to reopen the stores.

“As soon as we receive word that coffee deliveries are to resume, we will need to contact employees to notify them of their next shift (sticking to the existing schedule).”

Reached by phone, Tonning hung up after a few seconds of conversation.

Tully’s spokeswoman Suzy Quinn, asked about the stores suspending operations, did not address the lack of supplies cited in the memo. “All of the store closures relate to beginning the rebranding process, which takes months,” she said via email.

Tully’s has shrunk steadily in the past couple years. Late last year, it permanently closed several stores including one on Capitol Hill’s 19th Avenue East, after lawsuits seeking back rent.

The latest setback at Tully’s comes as Michael J. Avenatti, who bought the chain out of bankruptcy in 2013, has leapt to national prominence as the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the porn star who was paid $130,000 in 2016 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Donald Trump.

After The Seattle Times published an online story noting the link to Tully’s,  spokeswoman Quinn said in an email that Avenatti is no longer the owner.

“Michael Avenatti serves as the General Counsel for the company. He divested his interest in Tully’s nearly a year ago,” she wrote.

However, a longtime Tully’s employee questioned that assertion, saying that as recently as this week top managers were seeking to reach Avenatti to get payments for suppliers.

“Avenatti personally handles all payments to vendors, landlords, etc.,” the employee wrote Thursday before the closure memo went out.

Because payment hadn’t been made to the coffee-roasting company, “the stores are running out of supplies, namely beans. Several stores, including mine, have closed as a result.”

In an interview, the employee added, “If he’s not the owner, that’s definitely news to us. There’s been no indication to the contrary. That is a very bizarre thing to hear.”

Quinn later responded that “Any claim that Mr Avenatti deals with store level decisions and bills is ridiculous and baseless.”