By Nathan Bomey
All those Chuck E. Cheese tokens and tickets you’ve been hoarding are still good for now, but you might not have a local Chuck E. Cheese where you can use them anymore.
CEC Entertainment, the parent company of the entertainment-and-pizza venue geared toward kids, plans to permanently close about 34 locations that were open when the coronavirus pandemic began.
Late Thursday, the company filed a list of about 45 leases it plans to reject, including five in California, four in Florida, four in Massachusetts, three in Ohio and three in Oklahoma. The list included 11 locations that had already closed before the COVID-19 outbreak, including the West Ashley location. (See the full list below.) The North Charleston location seems to be unaffected.
CEC also requested a judge’s permission to continue to honor game credits, tickets, tokens, gift cards, customer deposits, discount offers and loyalty accounts as long as the company remains in business. The company has said it hopes to use the Chapter 11 process to shed debt and emerge as a more sustainable operation.
With more than 15,000 employees, the Irving, Texas-based company had 555 company-owned locations and 186 franchise locations spanning 47 states and 16 foreign countries or U.S. territories, as of Dec. 29.
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.
Chuck E. Cheese, founded in 1977, makes up a majority of the company’s business. Each location has about 75 games, rides and attractions, including classics like Skee-Ball, Whac-A-Mole and arcade basketball. The chain also serves a menu of pizza, wings, desserts and drinks, including alcoholic beverages at most sites. Visitors are serenaded by the brand’s eponymous mouse mascot.
Apollo took the company private in 2014 through a leveraged buyout that left it with substantial debt.
With its venues temporarily closed because of COVID-19, the company lost more than 90% of its revenue despite efforts to ramp up food delivery and takeout. During that period, the company got behind on its rent at hundreds of locations, according to a court filing.
“In ordinary times, the company would be financially sound,” CEC CFO James Howell said in the court document.
In a separate court filing (.pdf), CEC listed the leases it plans to reject:
Follow USA Today reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.-