Customers and employees of Joe's Crab Shack were stunned this week to discover the restaurants closed with no warning. The company has closed 41 restaurants so far.
According to The Daily Mail, several Joe's Crab Shack employees reported showing up to work to find the doors locked and paper signs posted in the windows indicating the restaurant was closed permanently. They said they'd had no warning that the restaurant could be closing, and were left scrambling to apply for new jobs as soon as possible.
One location in Roseville, Minnesota, closed so abruptly that guests showed up for a party that was scheduled to be held there that day. The sign in the door notified the surprised guests that the restaurant had been closed. According to Nation's Restaurant News, the party decamped to the Olive Garden next door.
At its peak in 2014, Joe's Crab Shack operated 139 locations. Earlier this year its website listed 112 restaurants, but now it's down to 72.
Ignite Restaurant Group is the parent company of the Joe's Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern + Tap restaurant chains. Ignite filed for bankruptcy in June, and Landry's Inc. won a bankruptcy auction to pay $57 million for the company. The sale was approved by a federal judge on August 17.
Brick House Tavern + Tap restaurants have not reportedly experienced this kind of sudden closure yet. Landry's CEO Tilman Fertitta told Nation's Restaurant News that he doesn't actually want that chain, it just came along with Joe's Crab Shack. He plans to sell it.
Fertitta actually bought Joe's Crab Shack as a single restaurant in 1994, then grew the concept into a popular chain before selling it in 2006. It went public in 2009 as Ignite Restaurant Group, but that clearly did not work out very well. Now Landry's got the restaurant back for $57 million.
There could be more closures coming. Fertitta told NRN that he thought the chain should have about 60 restaurants. There are 72 Joe's Crab Shack restaurants currently operating, according to the website.