Marlin & Ray, we hardly knew ye.
The casual dining seafood chain restaurant that opened on Baltimore Pike in Bel Air in early October abruptly ceased operations Wednesday.
The Bel Air Marlin & Ray's had company, as parent Ruby Tuesday, Inc., closed all 13 of the restaurants spread over an area that also included North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
A person who answered the phone at the Bel Air restaurant on Thursday afternoon confirmed that they had closed, but directed further inquires to the parent company's director of media relations. There was no answer at the Ruby Tuesday media relations 800 phone number or at the company's restaurant support center in Tennessee.
The website for Restaurant News reported that Ruby Tuesday had shuttered all the Marlin & Ray's and another sub-brand to concentrate on its Ruby Tuesday and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill brands. The closing were announced the same day, Wednesday, that Ruby Tuesday, Inc. reported its second quarter earnings.
"The Marlin & Ray's brand does not represent a meaningful conversion opportunity for us going forward," said company chief executive James J. "JJ" Buettgen during his first earnings call since taking over the position on Dec. 1, according to the Restaurant News report.
In Bel Air, Marlin & Rays occupied the building on the Route 1 frontage of Bel Air Plaza that was formerly the home of Ruby Tuesday, which opened in Bel Air Plaza in 1994 and was one of the first chain restaurants in the Routes 1 and 24 area of Bel Air. According to its website, Ruby Tuesday has more than 900 company owned and franchised restaurants.
Ruby Tuesday closed at the Bel Air location in July with plans to reopen as Marlin & Ray's. At the time, there were 11 Marlin & Ray's open at locations in four states in addition to Maryland, and Ruby Tuesday corporate said he had plans for further expansion.
At the time, the company's website said Marlin & Ray's was "all about keepin' it reel" and promised a "laid-back shack" with "great seafood, remarkable cocktails and an atmosphere that you expect to find only at the beach."
Skeptics around Bel Air, however, wondered how an untried seafood joint would make it, especially when two very popular seafood eateries, Red Lobster and Bonefish Grill, were just a block south on Route 1.
It took less than four months for the answer.