Toby Keith's Officially Not Opening in Flats, And There's Good Reason for That

The Flats East Bank project hopes to announce very soon a new tenant in the spot that was to be occupied by Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill. The red cup lovin' singer's eponymous operation was among the first to sign onto the Flats project, but a host of problems, which we'll get to in a second, left its future in limbo. Last update the public got was a note back in July that construction had been halted.

Well, it's halted permanently, a Flats spokesperson told us this morning. Toby Keith's won't be opening, and that's no surprise to anyone who's followed the foibles and disastrous short-term economic history of the chain.

The Arizona Republic published a complete takedown of the chain yesterday with oh so many sad nuggets about Boomtown Entertainment, the company licensed to operate the chain. It begins by noting, simply, that Boomtown faces "nearly $30 million in lawsuits, liens, judgments and accusations of unscrupulous business practices." Hooboy. Let's get to the details.

Boomtown closed most of its restaurants this year amid allegations that it stiffed landlords, contractors and suppliers, as well as racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in liens for failing to pay sales taxes.

An Arizona Republic investigation found Boomtown recently accelerated its restaurant closures, shutting down 10 since May with little or no warning to employees and customers. All told, Boomtown has closed 17 of its 20 Toby Keith restaurants in the past 18 months, including three in metro Phoenix and one in Tucson.

Boomtown officials followed many closures of Toby Keith restaurants with promises to open new ones in different cities. Since 2012, the company has announced plans to build 19 Toby Keith restaurants that it left unfinished or never started.

The Republic also found:
Boomtown, its affiliates and executives have been sued in 24 cities and are facing at least $28.6 million in lawsuits, judgments and liens.
No Toby Keith restaurant has been open longer than seven years, and some closed within months of opening.
The median time restaurants have stayed in business is two years. That includes the three still operating, in Rosemont, Ill., Foxborough, Mass., and Auburn Hills, Mich.

Boomtown, naturally, disputed that claim in a pile of jargon and bullshit mostly funneled through outside counsel who, when reached by the Republic, said simply that closing certain restaurants came down to financial decisions and nothing more. Lawsuits paint a different picture. They accuse Boomtown of many nefarious dealings, many of which have validated by default judgments costing millions of dollars that the company didn't even bother to fight, that include using money granted for tenant improvements at one location to fund improvements at other locations. It's quite the story of systemic incompetence and failure. Do read the whole thing.

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Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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