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Popular Alexandria, Minn. eatery files for bankruptcy

Tennessee Roadhouse is in south Alexandria along the Target frontage road and Highway 29. (File photo)

Signs on the front door said that the shuttered Tennessee Roadhouse in Alexandria was undergoing a remodel. However, owners Kevin Cunningham and Connie Lee Stitch-Cunningham have filed for bankruptcy and the restaurant has shut its doors permanently.

According to Kevin Cunningham, who has owned the property on Highway 29 since 1986, three factors led to the restaurant's decline in business:

• Major road construction in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

• An article in the Echo Press in August 2016 that discussed the fact that county had given the restaurant owners an extra five years to pay off $20,000 in taxes.

• A Tennessee Roadhouse employee who had allegedly been stealing money through the restaurant's pull-tab operations.

"The embezzlement was the final straw," Cunningham said. "We had to file bankruptcy. There was no other way we could do it."

The Cunninghams filed chapter 7 bankruptcy. A chapter 7 bankruptcy case does not involve the filing of a plan of repayment. The bankruptcy court sells the debtor's nonexempt assets and uses the proceeds to pay those who are owed money.

The meeting of the creditors is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 6, at the federal courthouse in Fergus Falls.

As for the signs claiming the restaurant was under remodeling, Cunningham says that was the initial plan. But after a few days, he and Connie decided that a remodel just wasn't plausible.

Cunningham says that the 40-some employees have been notified about the closing of the restaurant.

"That's 40-some families that depended on Connie and I, and we are just crushed," Cunningham said. "They were all like our kids, all like our family."

Though the restaurant's end didn't come the way the Cunninghams had hoped, Kevin says Tennessee Roadhouse will hold a special place in their hearts and they are thankful to the community.

"We want to thank everybody, and God bless everybody," he said. "We love this town and we love the people."