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Rubio's closes 48 restaurants in California, citing 'business climate' – Orange County Register

Rubio's Coastal Grill is closing 48 restaurants in California, 37 of them in Southern California. (Courtesy of Rubio's)

Employees at Rubio's Coastal Grill took to social media over the weekend to lament the closure of dozens of Southern California restaurants that caught them by surprise.

“Former employee after today,” Thesil58 wrote on Reddit. “They actually told us this morning when we came to work that today would be our last day. No severance, no warning, nada. Not sure exactly which locations are affected, but it's a lot.”

The Carlsbad-based restaurant chain, known for its fish tacos, announced the closure of 48 restaurants in California, blaming the state's business climate.

See also: Rubios Coastal Grill is still a “Baja thing” 40 years later

“The decision to close a store is never an easy one,” the company said in a statement. “Rubio's … has decided, after a thorough review of its operations and the current business climate, to close 48 underperforming locations in California effective May 31. The closures were due to the rising cost of doing business in California. While painful, the store closures are a necessary step in our long-term strategic plan to position Rubio's for success for years to come.”

Most closures (37) occurred in Southern California, 11 in Northern California.

The company, which has enlisted the help of Los Angeles-based public relations crisis management firm Sitrick and Co., declined to provide details on the closed restaurants. However, a Reddit user came to the rescue and provided a list of recent closures:

Adelanto, Anaheim Hills, Brea, Cerritos, Eastvale, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Huntington Beach (Beach Boulevard), La Habra, Lake Forest, Lakewood, Long Beach, Marina Del Rey, Ontario, Orange (N. Tustin St.), Oxnard, Pasadena, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, Santa Ana (on the 55 Freeway along 17th Street), Santa Clarita, Seal Beach, Tustin, Ventura and Whittier.

Restaurants in Monrovia and Walnut closed before the June 1 weekend.

Rubio's filed for bankruptcy in October 2020 and has been steadily closing restaurants since then. Four years ago, the company operated 167 restaurants in Arizona, Nevada and California. Bloomberg reported that it was unable to service some of its debt in June of that year after pandemic-related closures caused sales to plummet.

That same year, the company closed 26 low-performing stores in California, Arizona, Colorado and Florida.

But court documents show the chain was already in trouble, hampered by competition, rising labor costs and an unsuccessful expansion into new markets.

In April, California passed a new law (Assembly Bill 1228) that requires fast-food chains with more than 60 locations nationwide to pay their employees a minimum wage of $20. The law affects restaurants that are part of a national chain and offer limited or no table service.

The chain celebrated its 40th anniversary just last January. Co-founder Ralph Rubio discovered his love for fish tacos after a trip to San Felipe on the Gulf of California in Baja California.

“We camped on the beach, ate fish tacos in town and drank Coronas. And that was my first exposure. It was a real Baja thing,” he told SCNG's Fielding Buck last year.

The company hired Hilco Real Estate, a consulting firm often called upon to help insolvent companies dispose of their assets, particularly leases, in January this year.

Rubio's said the company is keeping 86 stores open in California, Arizona and Nevada.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.