The coronavirus grim reaper has helped to slay a longtime restaurant staple in Dallas' West End: T.G.I. Friday's, which had been open at 1713 Market St. since 1992, has closed for good.
On April 26, staffers were emptying the restaurant, moving furniture into vans. The restaurant is marked as "permanently closed" online, and its location page on the chain's website has been removed.
A statement from TGIF said that "this has been a challenging time for our country and the restaurant industry. We have worked to create opportunities for all of our restaurants with curbside pick-up, take-out and delivery. Unfortunately, due to the financial burden of COVID-19, we had to close our N. Market Street location in Dallas. We have immediately placed 10 employees to other nearby restaurant locations and have given everyone the option to relocate to other locations once they re-open."
A spokesperson also shared a statement from CEO Ray Blanchette that called out landlords and insurance companies.
"While the entire country is reeling from closures and lost income, landlords are saying 'pay up or get out,'" Blanchette's statement says. "That means jobs go with them, permanently. Restaurant owners include independent Franchisees of national chains who are small business owners. Those independent Franchise owners find themselves facing the same hardships as local store owners while the perception may be as part of a national chain, they are protected but they are not."
"Even more alarming, the insurance industry has turned a blind eye to its business community," he says. "Restaurants were closed as a public safety measure; not by owners or managers, and now insurers are denying their claims for business interruption, saying pandemics do not count since there hasn't been 'physical damage or destruction' to the building like natural disasters. However, the corona virus, which contaminates surfaces, qualifies as a 'physical loss' of the property and the associated government shutdown order constitutes 'loss of access to the building'’— both of which are covered under the insurance policy. 'Not covered' is the excuse businesses are getting time and time again. How many times have we heard that from giant insurance companies?"
This TGIF will not be the first or last restaurant to be shuttered by COVID-19, and the casual dining chain has suffered losses in recent years, closing 34 locations in 2019.
But it's still a shocker to see the demise of what had been a longtime fixture in Dallas' West End.
Following the 2019 closure of Spaghetti Warehouse, which had been in the West End since 1972, it represents another big shift in the neighborhood's landscape, says Joe Groves, who opened Ellen's in the West End in 2012.
"In recent years, it seems like Friday's had aged, but Friday's and Spaghetti Warehouse were both originals," Groves says.
T.G.I. Friday's had recently changed ownership and was about to become a public company with a merger between TGIF Holdings and Allegro Merger Corp. when the virus hit. That transaction was canceled at the end of March due to "extraordinary market conditions and the failure to meet necessary closing conditions."
The chain has recently closed other franchisee-owned locations around the country from Owensboro, Kentucky, to Champaign, Illinois.