Chuck E. Cheese—where kids could be kids while parents nursed headaches—is filing for bankruptcy protection. The 43-year-old chain, which drew kids with pizza, video games, and a singing mouse mascot, was struggling even before the coronavirus pandemic. But it said the prolonged closure of many outlets due to coronavirus restrictions led to Thursday's Chapter 11 filing, the AP reports. CEC Entertainment Inc. has reopened 266 of its 555 company-operated Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza restaurants as restrictions ease, but it's unclear how willing parents will be to host birthday parties and other gatherings. The company based in Irving, Texas, said it will continue to reopen locations and offer carryout and delivery while it negotiates with debt and lease holders.
CEC and its franchisees operate 734 restaurants in 47 states and 16 countries. Franchised locations aren't included in the bankruptcy filing, the company said. CEC listed nearly $2 billion in debt and $1.7 billion in assets in its petition, which was filed with the US Bankruptcy Court in southern Texas. Chuck E. Cheese got its start in 1977, when Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell opened Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre in San Jose, Calif. The chain has struggled in recent years, and the pandemic was a final straw. At one point, some Chuck E. Cheese locations began offering food delivery on apps like Grubhub under the alias Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings. An industry analyst said Chuck E. Cheese is saddled with large stores and an abundance of high-touch surfaces at a time when many people may have mixed emotions about parties.
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