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Kitchen closed: Cottonwood area loses several restaurants

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The building where TGIF once operated near Cottonwood mall. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Looking to grab dinner near Cottonwood Mall?

You might find yourself walking up to an empty restaurant building (or two) before settling on a destination.

Lone Star Steakhouse and Zio’s Italian Kitchen are the latest to shut down in the food-centric stretch bordering Cottonwood Mall on the east. Their empty digs join the vacancy left by TGIFridays’ closure in mid-2015.

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The Zio\’s restaurant near Cottonwood mall. The restaurant is one of several in the area that are now vacant. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Neither recent closure was an isolated incident for the respective restaurant chains. Zio’s parent company filed for bankruptcy protection in September, signaling in court papers that it intended to close five of its 15 locations. The Albuquerque store shut in December. Lonestar has abruptly closed several other locations around the country in recent weeks, according to media reports. (The Plano, Texas-based company has not returned Journal messages seeking comment.)

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The Lone Star restaurant near Cottonwood mall has closed. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

But Dennis Carpenter of local chain Los Cuates said he thinks the area around Cottonwood was over-built with restaurants and “the stronger ones survived.” That includes Los Cuates, which still has a location in front of the mall. Its still-open neighbors in the stretch include Garduño’s, Chili’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Red Robin. Other restaurants have cropped up on the Cottonwood perimeter in recent years, including Texas Roadhouse and BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse.

The restaurant losses come amid a series of other closures within the mall itself. The mall lost one anchor — Sports Authority — as part of that chain’s demise last year. It will lose another in the coming months when Macy’s closes its Cottonwood store as part of a chain-wide downsizing.

The  mall also said goodbye to some smaller tenants like The Limited and ALDO Shoes. Wet Seal, another Cottonwood merchant, is also planning to shut all its stores, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Cottonwood Mall representatives declined to comment for this story.

But Los Cuates, for one, has not suffered. Carpenter said the company does “extremely well” near Cottonwood, with that site the second-best performer within the four-restaurant chain.

And the situation might not deter future restaurants from moving in.

Tim With, a real estate broker with Colliers International in Albuquerque, said he and partner John Ransom have already given many tours to groups considering a lease or purchase of the old Zio’s digs, which are owned by a private investment group. (List price: $3.25 million.) Tom Jones, a broker who is marketing the TGIFridays with colleague Bob Feinberg, said that property has drawn “considerable interest” from local and national companies.

With attributes the attention in part to the fact that the Cottonwood area has had few openings in recent years.

“It’s been so difficult to enter that market unless you were to construct a new facility,” he said, noting that replacements have historically stepped in when restaurants around the mall closed.

Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, took over the old Tony Roma’s, Los Cuates backfilled a former Copeland’s, and Garduno’s occupies a spot once used by On the Border.

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