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Old Country Buffet closes its Bellingham restaurant

Lila Showalter, right, and her husband, Jack, get a few laughs over the authenticity of their marriage certificate with General Manager Lilian Roach at the Old Country Buffet in Kennewick in 2007. The restaurant chain has struggled with bankruptcy, however, which led to the June 14, 2016, closure of its Bellis Fair location.
Lila Showalter, right, and her husband, Jack, get a few laughs over the authenticity of their marriage certificate with General Manager Lilian Roach at the Old Country Buffet in Kennewick in 2007. The restaurant chain has struggled with bankruptcy, however, which led to the June 14, 2016, closure of its Bellis Fair location. Tri-City Herald

Old Country Buffet, a longtime tenant at Bellis Fair, has closed its Bellingham space as its corporate owner continues to deal with bankruptcy.

Bellis Fair General Manager Rene Morris was told that the restaurant would not be opening on Tuesday, June 14, and was being permanently closed because of the company’s corporate bankruptcy. Morris said mall officials were disappointed about the closure and will begin a search for a new tenant for that space, which is near Target.

“We have to look at this as an opportunity to bring something new and fresh to the mall,” Morris said. “At this point, we aren’t sure if we will look to bring in another restaurant or change the use completely. I would love to have some input from our community as to what they would like to see replace Old Country Buffet.”

Old Country Buffet arrived at the mall in 1998 and offered a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner items that customers served themselves. According to its website, the company has nine Old Country Buffet and HomeTown Buffet restaurants left in Washington, including several in the Seattle area.

The corporate company that owns Old Country has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection three times in the past decade, most recently in March under new ownership, according to a recent article by USA Today.

This is the second major Bellis Fair tenant that is closing because of bankruptcy woes in recent weeks. Last month, Sports Authority began its closing business sale, which is expected to last until August.

To provide input on what should go into that space at Bellis Fair, call the mall office at 360-671-5654.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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