The Walt Disney Co. is shutting down most of its ESPN Zone stores, a chain of sports-themed restaurants located in seven cities, according to a person familiar with the matter. The only outlets to remain open are those tied to a Disney property, such as the Downtown Disney shopping district in Anaheim.
Disney sounds the buzzer on ESPN Zones sports bars | Company Town | Los Angeles TimesIt's unclear what prompted Disney to close the establishments, although the bars may well be a casualty of the recession. A poll released in March by AlixPartners found that 30% of consumers planned to eat out less frequently, and spend less per meal than they did the year before.
In addition, some of the ESPN Zone restaurants were located in high-priced real estate areas, such as Times Square in New York.
"Since their inception, the Zones have served sports fans very well," said an ESPN spokesman, who declined further comment. "But from a pure business perspective, the economics have been challenging."
Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst for researcher the NPD Group, said the restaurant business is undergoing its biggest decline in three decades.