Tex-Mex chain Don Pablo’s files bankruptcy, closes 4 area locations

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The owner of Don Pablo’s Mexican Kitchen has filed for bankruptcy protection and closed numerous locations around the country, including all four of its Indianapolis-area locations.

Rita’s Restaurant Corp. filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday in San Antonio, Texas.

The Tex-Mex chain shut down restaurants at the following area locations:

— Clearwater Crossing, 3824 E. 82nd St., Indianapolis;
— 7600 Old Trails Road, Indianapolis;
— Greenwood Point, 8150 U.S. 31, Indianapolis
— 14758 Greyhound Plaza, Carmel.

Launched in 1985 in Lubbock, Texas, Don Pablo’s had at least 120 locations around the country at its peak in the late 1990s. It began opening restaurants in the Indianapolis area in the early 1990s.

The company now has 12 restaurants in nine states, it said. The only remaining Don Pablo’s in Indiana is in Lafayette.

Growing competition from other Mexican restaurants and fast-casual dining options such as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Baja Fresh, Tijuana Flats and Qdoba Mexican Eats took their toll on business, company leaders said. Increased Mexican offerings from Chili's, Applebee's and TGI Friday's also intruded into sales.

"Perhaps more than any other factor, the Debtors' efforts to improve financial performance have been adversely impacted by the overall weakness in the casual dining environment," the company said in court filings. "The casual dining industry is highly competitive and faces increased competition from fast-casual dining options. Despite the relatively steady economy in most of the United States, the casual dining environment remains depressed."

Rita's estimated it had assets and liabilities in the range between $1 million and $10 million.

Don Pablo's is managed by an affiliate of Hollywood Park, Texas-based Food Management Partners Inc., which also operates Ryan's, Old Country Buffet, HomeTown Buffet, Zio's Italian Kitchen and other chains.

Zio's and Buffets LLC, owner of Old Country, HomeTown and Ryans, filed for Chapter 11 protection earlier this year.

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