VICTORVILLE —The Chuck E. Cheese restaurant in Victorville dodged the closure bullet this week after its parent company on Wednesday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
On Friday, CEC Entertainment, which also owns the Peter Piper Pizza chain, announced plans to permanently shutter about 34 Chuck E. Cheese restaurants across the country.
Five Chuck E. Cheese locations in California were on the list of store closures, including stores in San Bernardino, Ladera Heights, El Monte, Long Beach and Diamond Bar.
The bankruptcy decision came after the 43-year-old pizza chain, which is known for its food, video games, entertainment and singing mouse mascot, chose to temporarily close locations nationwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In mid-March, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for all restaurants statewide to suspend dine-in service. On May 12, Newson announced that restaurants in some counties could resume their dine-in service.
Chuck E. Cheese was struggling financially even before the pandemic, with CEC listing nearly $2 billion in debt and $1.7 billion in assets in its bankruptcy petition, which was filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in southern Texas, the Associated Press reported.
CEC, which is owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, posted revenue of $913 million and a net loss of $29 million in 2019, according to a court filing. Reserved birthday packages made up about 16% of the company’s revenue in 2019, USA Today reported.
The company said it hopes that filing for bankruptcy protection would help it cut debt, negotiate concessions with landlords and emerge as a more sustainable entity.
As of December, the Texas-based company with more than 15,000 employees had 555 company-owned locations and 186 franchisee locations spanning 47 states and 16 foreign countries or U.S. territories, USA Today reported.
As of Wednesday, 266 company-run restaurants had reopened following temporary closures due to COVID-19. Over 282 company-run locations remained closed.
Last week, the doors to Chuck E. Cheese on Amargosa Road in Victorville were open for carry-out orders only, while all the games, rides, attractions and mouse mascot inside the eatery sat idle.
On Thursday, a restaurant employee at the Victorville store, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Daily Press that the store would be fully opened once it received approval from San Bernardino County health officials.
In a statement, CEC CEO David McKillips called the COVID-19 pandemic “the most challenging event in our company’s history.” He also said the company hopes to “get back to the business of delivering memories, entertainment and pizzas for another 40 years and beyond.”
Tasha Adams, whose three children have all celebrated birthdays at Chuck E. Cheese, told the Daily Press on Friday that it’s highly unlikely that her family will ever visit the restaurant again.
“Even if they do open, I can’t see how they’ll disinfect everything with all those kids running around,” said Adams, who lives in Hesperia. “I like Chuck E. Cheese and even John’s Incredible Pizza, but I can’t take the risk of my kids being infected with the coronavirus. I just can’t.”
To see the full list of restaurant closures, visit www.usatoday.com.
Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.