ROXBURY, NJ – The parking lots of TGI Friday’s and Outback Steakhouse were filled tonight with cars of Saturday night diners, but empty darkness was the scene a half-mile away at Ruby Tuesday.
Its 391 parking spaces were vacant. A sign on its door said, “This Location Has Closed.”
Chalk it up as one more blow to the gasping-for-air Ledgewood Mall. The plug-pull at Ruby Tuesday comes on the heels of the shuttering of the increasingly lifeless shopping center’s Sports Authority store and the January 2015 closing of its Macy’s.
Roxbury’s Ruby Tuesday was one of about 95 closed by the Maryville, TN chain as part of an “asset rationalization” announced last week.
"The decision to close restaurants is a difficult but necessary step as we take aggressive actions to strengthen our organization,” said Ruby Tuesday Chairman of the Board, President and CEO JJ Buettgen in a statement. “Performance at each of these locations, despite the loyalty of valued guests and the efforts of our dedicated employees, was not meeting expectations.”
Ruby Tuesday revenue declined 5.9 percent in fiscal fourth quarter 2016 (whih ended May 31) compared to the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the company. A restaurant sales decrease "was driven in part by traffic declines resulting from a challenging and competitive external environment" it said, noting that year-over-year guest counts fell 4.6 percent.
Buettgen said employees of closed Ruby Tuesdays were going to be offered jobs in its other nearby restaurants, where possible. The Ruby Tuesday in Hackettstown remains open and the sign on the door of the Ledgewood outpost, 14 miles away, recommends Ruby fans make the trip west.
The 5,000-square-foot former Ruby Tuesday and the 52,205-square-foot former Sports Authority join a long list of empty retail space at the 43-year-old, 43-acre, 517,000-square-foot shopping center. The property was purchased a year ago by a 3-way partnership that believes it can resuscitate the mall and turn it into a vibrant new “power center.”
Gone will be the name Ledgewood Mall under the new owners’ plan. They aim to call the place “The Shops at Ledgewood Commons,” after converting it into a 428,593-square-foot “open air … destination to meet, eat and shop.”
Mayor Jim Rilee said the former Macy's building is likely to be removed and all access to stores will be from the parking lot.