Ambitious entertainment concept in Deep Ellum rolls a gutter ball


In these hard COVID-19 times, closures of bars and restaurants around Dallas are coming fast and furious. But this closure has its own sad tale: Punch Bowl Social, the restaurant and game chain that opened in Deep Ellum in June 2019, has shuttered possibly not just on a temporary basis, but for good.

The restaurant’s closure initially seemed temporary, with the closure attributed to the coronavirus.

“We are taking this action in accordance with local, state and federal recommendations to ensure the health of our guests, staff, community and country,” said a note posted on their website on March 19. “Stay safe. We’ll get through this together.”

But staffers at the restaurant confirmed they were let go permanently in a “mass layoff” on March 16. And a report by Restaurant Business says that parent company Cracker Barrel has opted not to rescue the concept from foreclosure.

All 19 locations were closed and the company’s lenders said they intended to foreclose on the chain’s assets.

Founder Robert Thompson opened the first Punch Bowl Social in Denver in 2012, and by 2017, had opened 10 locations in hipster cities such as Austin, Portland, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Cleveland.

The company emphasized carefree good times and nonconformity, with a mash up of chandeliers, food for foodies, PBR tallboys, and craft beverages.

The place combined food and beverage with games and social activities including ping-pong, darts, board games, classic video games, bowling, and private karaoke rooms.

For its Dallas location, the chain bagged a long unoccupied and rather large space at the corner of Main Street and Good Latimer Freeway; it opened in May.

They followed up with a location in Fort Worth which opened in August – but then, despite a more than $2 million build-out, closed three months later.

Punch Bowl Social entered into its partnership with Cracker Barrel in July 2019. Cracker Barrel committed to investing up to $140 million for future development. But on November 5, the same day the Fort Worth location closed, investor Sardar Biglari, whose hedge fund had invested in Cracker Barrel, began asking for records from Cracker Barrel related to its investment in Punch Bowl Social.

At the time of the Fort Worth closure, the company said that it was committed to keeping the Deep Ellum location open, and that it wasn’t ruling Fort Worth out entirely.

Thompson told Restaurant Business that the concept isn’t done, stating that they’re “continuing to collaborate with our lender, CrowdOut,” and are “working now to be in a strong position for our future re-openings, nationwide.” He was not available for comment.

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