Macon Mall’s Ruby Tuesday closes its doors

The Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Macon Mall closed Monday, part of a round of closings the company announced last year because of declining profits.

The restaurant was one of 40 closed in the past two to three months “because of a lack of sales performance that we think is attributable to the economic downturn,” said Rick Johnson, spokesman for the Maryville, Tenn.-based chain.

Ruby Tuesday operates more than 950 restaurants, according to its Web site. Last year, the company announced it would close 70 locations in the next few years, including 40 by March.

Ruby Tuesday restaurants in Warner Robins, Dublin and Milledgeville all were open Monday.

“At this time, there are no plans for additional closings in that area,” Johnson said.

Workers in Macon can transfer to other Ruby Tuesdays or take a severance package based on length of service, he said.

Macon Mall officials said in a statement that they learned of the closing Monday.

“While it is disappointing, it is not exclusive to our market,” the statement said, referring to Ruby Tuesday’s plans to close other restaurants.

The closing is another blow for the mall, which already has lost two of its anchor stores. Parisian closed in 2006, and Dillard’s, which built a new store at The Shoppes at River Crossing in north Bibb County, closed in December. The mall also lost another store in December when clothing retailer Steve and Barry’s went bankrupt. Also, the mall is currently in foreclosure because of nonpayment of a $141.2 million loan. The 1.4 million-square-foot center was to be sold to the highest bidder in October, but the sale was postponed.

Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, which was approved by the court to manage the property, has not given a new date for the sale.

Mall officials stressed in Monday’s statement that the mall is not closing and will “continue to be an important player in the local economy.”

“We purchase over $1 million in service and products to operate this mall, and we employ well over 2,500 people,” the statement said.

The statement also noted that January retail sales nationally defied analysts predictions, increasing slightly over December and reversing six consecutive months of decline.

“Locally, we have been seeing increased foot traffic and stronger sales,” mall officials said.

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.