The Red Lobster seafood restaurant at Fashion Square mall has closed.
The sign has been stripped from the building, the flags are missing from the nautical flag pole in the parking lot and a message taped to the front door directs patrons to the nearest Red Lobster locations in Staunton and Harrisonburg.
Messages on social media platforms from users who claimed to be former employees said that at least some employees were transferring to other locations.
The Red Lobster sat at the Rio Road East entrance to Fashion Square mall on a outparcel separate from the indoor shopping center just north of Charlottesville in Albemarle County.
Fashion Square has struggled to retain tenants, not only as an indoor mall during a pandemic but even before that amid increasing competition from nearby outdoor competitors at Barracks Road Shopping Center and the Shops at Stonefield, which continue to attract retailers.
The 570,000-square-foot Fashion Square mall sold to Georgia-based home improvement retailer Home Depot in September of last year for an undisclosed price. The sale did not include the Belk or the shuttered J.C. Penney store. Officials at the time said the roughly 30 remaining mall tenants would continue their leases after the sale.
Orlando, Florida-based Red Lobster, the largest seafood restaurant chain in the U.S., has also been struggling. Thai Union Group, the Thailand-based producer of seafood-based food products that acquired Red Lobster in 2020, has said it has suffered financial losses as a result of its stake in the restaurant, which saw several of its locations close earlier in the pandemic and never reopen. Red Lobster began raising prices in August to cover the cost of inflation, according to a Thai Union third-quarter earnings report, while at the same time exploring a “lower cost” labor model.
Those efforts, however, have clearly not been enough to save all stores.