Chuck E. Cheese, Peter Piper Pizza parent company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid pandemic closings
Chuck E. Cheese restaurants have left some GrubHub customers feeling duped. Chuck E. Cheese uses Pasqually's Pizza & Wings on GrubHub to deliver food. Video Elephant
Whether a kid can still be a kid is now up to a federal bankruptcy judge.
The parent company of Chuck E. Cheese, which used the slogan "where a kid can be a kid" to promote its national chain of pizza-and-amusement venues, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Wednesday.
The move came after the coronavirus pandemic forced the company to temporarily close locations. The chain has also been weighed down by debt it accumulated in a private equity buyout several years ago.
Parent company CEC Entertainment, which also owns the Peter Piper Pizza chain, said it hopes to use the Chapter 11 process to cut debt, negotiate concessions with landlords and emerge as a more sustainable entity.
CEC David McKillips issued a statement calling the pandemic "the most challenging event in our company's history" and said the company hopes to "get back to the business of delivering memories, entertainment and pizzas for another 40 years and beyond."
CEC said franchised locations are not part of the bankruptcy.
Known as a destination for birthday parties, arcade games and pizza, the company and its franchisees collectively operate more than 600 Chuck E. Cheese locations and more than 120 Peter Piper Pizza venues in 47 states and 16 other countries or territories.
It was not immediately clear whether CEC plans to close any locations permanently in bankruptcy. The company said it's attempting to negotiate lower rent payments, a process that leaves open the possibility of permanent closures.
As of Wednesday, 266 company-run locations had reopened following temporary closings due to COVID-19. Another 282 company-run locations remain closed.
"Subject to ongoing negotiations with its landlords, the Company expects to maintain ongoing operations in these locations throughout the Chapter 11 process, providing dine-in, delivery and carry-out services, hosting birthday parties during dedicated hours, and supporting fundraisers and events in the coming weeks and months," CEC said in a statement. "The Company also plans to continue opening additional locations each week, steadily bringing more employees back to work."
In its bankruptcy petition, CEC listed $2 billion in debt and $1.7 billion in liabilities.
CEC Entertainment is owned by private equity firm Apollo Global Management, which acquired the company in a leveraged buyout in 2014.
In 2019, Apollo announced that it would combine CEC with Leo Holdings in a deal that would make Chuck E. Cheese publicly traded. But that deal was later scrapped.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.