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BJ's filing says it is in discussions with landlords on rent and leases.

BJ’s lays off 16,000 hourly workers but keeps all restaurants open

Casual-dining brand also suspends rent for April amid shift to off-premise sales

BJ’s Restaurants Inc. has temporarily laid off about 16,000 hourly restaurant workers but continues to operate all 209 of its restaurants with take-out and delivery during the coronavirus pandemic, the company said in a business update Monday.

The Huntington Beach, Calif.-based casual-dining brand also said that “in an effort to further preserve financial flexibility, the company suspended the payment of rent on leases for the month of April 2020.”

Gregory Trojan, BJ’s Restaurants CEO, said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that “the company is in discussions with its landlords regarding additional suspensions and/or restructuring of rent during the COVID-19 crisis, in light of various contractual and legal defenses.”

While sales in the off-premise delivery and take-out channels has increased during the pandemic, it has fallen short of sales when dine-in options were not restricted, the company said, which led to the temporary layoffs.

“The company will evaluate all restaurants regularly and consider closing certain locations based on their strength of off-premise sales and associated cash flows,” BJ’s said.

The company said it paid all hourly restaurant employees their accrued, unused vacation and sick time, and “provided short-term emergency paid time off to employees who were not otherwise eligible for sick pay benefits under state or local laws,” Trojan said.

“The company anticipates gradually recalling those employees when sales begin to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels,” the filing noted.

For the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, BJ’s net income rose to $14.5 million, or 75 cents a share, from $10.7 million, or 49 cents a share, in the prior-year period. The quarter’s income reflected two sale-leaseback transactions. Revenues grew about 3.1%, to $291.1 million, from the year-ago quarter. Same-store sales in the quarter rose 0.4%.

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Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

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TAGS: Coronavirus
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