In these hard COVID-19 times, closures of bars and restaurants around Dallas are coming fast and furious. But this closure has its own sad tale: Punch Bowl Social, the restaurant and game chain that opened in Deep Ellum in June 2019, has shuttered possibly not just on a temporary basis, but for good.
The restaurant's closure initially seemed temporary, with the closure attributed to the coronavirus.
"We are taking this action in accordance with local, state and federal recommendations to ensure the health of our guests, staff, community and country," said a note posted on their website on March 19. "Stay safe. We'll get through this together."
But staffers at the restaurant confirmed they were let go permanently in a "mass layoff" on March 16. And a report by Restaurant Business says that parent company Cracker Barrel has opted not to rescue the concept from foreclosure.
All 19 locations were closed and the company's lenders said they intended to foreclose on the chain's assets.
But in a statement, founder Robert Thompson reiterated that this is a temporary closure.
"From the start, many thought the pairing of Punch Bowl Social and Cracker Barrel was unusual," Thompson said. "We saw it differently – we recognized the possibilities and the opportunity to grow our brand with the support of one of the largest and most respected hospitality companies in the country. We find it difficult to judge the decisions made by anyone trying to survive the global COVID-19 pandemic. We are all navigating new terrain and doing our best to simply survive. Punch Bowl Social is continuing to collaborate with our lender, CrowdOut, and is working now to be in a strong position for our future re-openings, nationwide."
CrowdOut Capital expressed its continued support and is working with Punch Bowl's management team to navigate through these unique and trying times, said CEO Alexander Schoenbaum. "Robert and his team have built an incredible brand we believe in, and we are confident in Punch Bowl Social and its team to work through these difficult and unprecedented days. We look forward to seeing Punch Bowl reopen its doors to the public as soon as it is safe and practicable."
Thompson opened the first Punch Bowl Social in Denver in 2012. The company combined food and beverage with games and social activities including ping-pong, darts, board games, classic video games, bowling, and private karaoke rooms.
For its Dallas location, the chain leased a large, long-unoccupied space at the corner of Main Street and Good Latimer Freeway; it opened in May.
They followed up with a location in Fort Worth which opened in August — but then, despite a more than $2 million build-out, closed three months later.
Punch Bowl Social entered into its partnership with Cracker Barrel in July 2019. Cracker Barrel committed to investing up to $140 million for future development. But on November 5, the same day the Fort Worth location closed, investor Sardar Biglari, whose hedge fund had invested in Cracker Barrel, began asking for records from Cracker Barrel related to its investment in Punch Bowl Social.
At the time of the Fort Worth closure, the company said that it was committed to keeping the Deep Ellum location open, and that it wasn't ruling Fort Worth out entirely.