(Photo: Staff photo)
NEWARK – Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen closed its Newark restaurant on Sunday, not because of unpaid sales tax, but because it plans to move to Heath, a company official said.
Sam Durrani, chief operating officer of the Popeye’s franchise group, based in New Jersey, said Thursday that the sales taxes have now been paid, and the closure was entirely due to the location hurting business.
The Ohio Department of Taxation placed a pink slip on the business, at 964 N. 21st St., on Tuesday, showing that the restaurant’s license had been suspended.
"We shut down two days prior," Durrani said. "We closed Sunday night. Sales taxes had nothing to do with it. The sales tax is paid and we are still not going to reopen.
"The trade area is a dying trade area. The Newark restaurants are not performing as well as the Heath restaurants are."
More: Popeye’s closes, loses vendor license for not paying sales taxes
The restaurant opened in January 2017, a month before Raising Cane’s opened in Heath.
Anthony Mazonkey, who helps choose sites for Popeye’s restaurants, said in March 2016 that the location was right for Popeye’s.
"We like the area," Mazonkey said at the time. "Popeye’s wanted to be in Newark. The traffic on 21st Street and development along there make it attractive. There’s a lot of activity along 21st."
Durrani said business should be better in Heath. He said companies that have a restaurant in both Newark and Heath, see much better performance from their Heath restaurant.
"Our market analysis was a little bit off," Durrani said.
He did not say exactly where in Heath the new restaurant will be located, but said it will be on Hebron Road.
"We will not exit the market," Durrani said. "We are in the final stages of negotiating the real estate. We’ve gotten a great response from the people of Heath."
The restaurant will open in late 2018 or early 2019, he said.
The Newark restaurant will be "de-branded" and leased to another restaurant or business, he said.
"We are in talks with several people," Durrani said of the use for the Newark building.