Rainforest Cafe in Towson closes doors

January 13, 2009|By Jonathan Pitts | Jonathan Pitts,jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

Rainforest Cafe at Towson Town Center - like too many of the tropical landscapes it was designed to emulate - is no more.

Landry's Restaurants Inc. of Houston, parent company of the jungle-themed restaurant chain, announced yesterday that its nine-year-old Towson location closed its doors at the end of business Sunday.

Charles Crerand, general manager of Towson Town Center, said in a statement that the mall's owner, General Growth Properties Inc., had acquired the restaurant's space "in an effort to continue the expansion of Towson Town Center's luxury wing."

Crerand called the move part of the mall's effort to "stay ahead of the curve with new retail and restaurant options ... and offer a fresh and exciting shopping experience to its customers."

"The mall desired to expand their retail base," Rainforest Cafe spokeswoman Christine Peeler said, "and acquired our location." Landry's is "continuing the expansion of the Rainforest Cafe brand" elsewhere in the country, she said.

Mall officials did not say whether GGP had leased the space.

Like each of the chain's locations, Towson's Rainforest Cafe featured rain forest-themed decor and sound effects, including animatronic animals, simulated thunderstorms, live parrots and talking trees.

It was an especially popular destination for families with children.

"The Rainforest Cafe has a very targeted market," said Dianne Feffer Reas, an industry consultant. "I guess you could say it's anyone under 11 - and their families, too."

Whether the closure was also related to the current economic downturn, or to access difficulties because of recent construction in the mall, was unclear.

The closing appeared to be part of a growing effort by Towson Town Center to appeal to an increasingly upscale customer base. The mall has added a P.F. Chang's restaurant, a Pottery Barn store and a Cheesecake Factory, among other stores, in the same wing as Rainforest Cafe in recent months.

A sign outside the restaurant yesterday said the company would honor gift cards at any of Landry's restaurants across the country, which include Chart House and Big Fish.

Yesterday's closure came on the same day that Landry's said that it canceled a plan to take the company private and that it was refinancing $400 million in senior debt. The company's shares slumped almost 34 percent to close at $8.16 yesterday.

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