Pandemic takes a bite, Chuck E Cheese files for bankruptcy

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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 venues due to coronavirus restrictions led to Thursday's Chapter 11 filing.

Irving-based CEC Entertainment Inc. has reopened 266 company-operated Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza restaurants, but it's unclear how willing parents will be to host birthday parties and other gatherings. The company will continue to reopen locations and offer carryout while it negotiates with debt and lease holders.

CEC and its franchisees operate 734 restaurants in 47 states and 16 countries.

“The Chapter 11 process will allow us to strengthen our financial structure as we recover from what has undoubtedly been the most challenging event in our company’s history” said CEO David McKillips in a prepared statement.

The restaurant industry has been devastated by the pandemic. At the low point of the pandemic, in mid-April, transactions at U.S. family dining restaurants plummeted more than 80%, according to The NPD Group, a data and consulting firm.