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Bar Louie files for bankruptcy, abruptly shuts three of its five Maryland sites, including one in Owings Mills

Bar Louie, a Texas-based gastropub chain, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed more than a third of its corporate-owned locations, including three in Maryland.

Restaurants in Owings Mills, Wheaton and Rockville are among 38 locations closed over the weekend. The chain, which had grown to 134 locations in 26 states, cites recent expansion, an “inconsistent brand experience” and decreased traffic to shopping malls as leading to the declines, according to the filing Monday in a Delaware bankruptcy court.

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Two Baltimore County locations, in Hunt Valley and White Marsh, remained open, according to the Bar Louie website Monday afternoon.

Bar Louie offers a range of beer, liquor and pub food such as burgers and sandwiches. Many of the restaurants are near shopping malls and business districts. The company, which saw revenue fall 3.7% to $252 million last year, hired an investment banker in September to sell the chain, generating three letters of intent, but no deal.

Bar Louie lists more than $100 million in outstanding debts, according to the filing. As part of the bankruptcy process, secured lenders have agreed to bid on the assets to guarantee a sale if no other buyer steps up with a higher offer. The minimum bid will be $82.5 million plus assumed liabilities, according to the filing.

“The sale through Chapter 11 will help us to focus on our profitable core locations and expand in areas that have a proven track record of success,” Tom Fricke, CEO of Bar Louie, said in a news release.

In 2018, a new CEO and management team were brought in to implement a turnaround strategy, which included refreshing the restaurants, improving the menu and developing a new advertising campaign to increase traffic.

The initiatives improved performance in 72 of the 110 corporate locations, but sales declined by nearly 11% last year in the 38 locations targeted for closing, according to the filing.

Bar Louie, which received a $22 million line of credit from its lenders, expects to emerge from Chapter 11 within 90 days under a new owner.

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