Yet another downtown Newark restaurant has fallen victim to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn.
Panera Bread shut down its location at 140 E. Main St. in mid-March and never reopened. The outdoor sign was taken down recently, and last week, landlord George Danneman confirmed the eatery is closed for good.
“Panera decided to make its COVID-19 closing permanent,” Danneman said. “The business model at our specific location is highly dependent on foot traffic.”
The eatery, whose sandwiches, soups, coffee and pastries were popular among students and Newark residents alike, opened its doors in 2006.
On March 16, American Bread Company LLC, which manages the Panera locations in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, filed a notice with the state indicating it was laying off 190 employees in Delaware.
Panera officials did not respond to a request for comment, but information on the company’s website indicates at least 46 locations have closed permanently since the pandemic began.
The sandwich chain still has a restaurant on Kirkwood Highway and two on Concord Pike, though it appears its Christiana Mall location has closed as well.
Danneman said Panera plans to be out of the Main Street building by Aug. 15, but he has not yet determined the future of the site.
“We will regroup and decide the best path forward for this property after Panera finishes its move-out,” he said.
He does not plan to incorporate the building into his nearby redevelopment plan, which will be considered by the planning commission and city council “very soon,” he added.
The redevelopment project is slated for 132 E. Main St., which currently houses Tasty Wok, Playa Bowls, the former Margherita’s Pizza and four apartments.
The plan calls for a five-story building containing 47 apartments, as well as two retail spaces on the first floor. The proposed building would extend beyond the existing footprint and into the portion of the municipal parking lot that the city leases from Danneman.
Under the proposal, the rear portion of the building would have ground-level parking, which Danneman hopes to continue leasing to the city. Under such an arrangement, the 18 spaces under the building would become part of the municipal lot, similar to the parking underneath the nearby Kate’s Place building.
Danneman had originally proposed building a hotel but changed to the apartment proposal earlier this year.