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September 16, 2009

Country Buffet restaurant to close

ONEONTA _ The Country Buffet on Main Street in the East End has closed because of a lawsuit from the national franchise Old Country Buffet, according to management of the local restaurant.

Owner Christos Georgakopoulos said Tuesday that the restaurant at 525-529 Main St. is for sale, but wouldn't comment further.

The restaurant opened in August. Earlier this month, Georgakopoulos said that an attorney from the Old Country Buffet franchise contacted him, and plans were to change the name to The City Buffet because he couldn't afford to fight the issue in court. He said then that the restaurant would continue to be an independently owned operation, serving a variety of homemade food.

On Tuesday, notices on two doors at the restaurant's main entrance said the last day of business was Saturday.

Telephone calls to the Old Country Buffet headquarters weren't returned Tuesday.

Rob Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the Otsego County Chamber, said he spoke last week with Georgakopoulos, who said the franchise indicated making the name change alone wasn't a satisfactory resolution. Old Country Buffet asked for a portion of the profits while the name was being used, Robinson said, adding that the Georgakopoulos family doesn't want to close the restaurant.

The family also owns Athens Famous Gyros at 214 Main St. in Oneonta.

The 525-529 Main St. site was formerly a Burger King restaurant.

Georgakopoulos bought the 525-529 Main St. property Dec. 30, 2008, for $130,000, according to records at the Otsego County Real Property Tax Services Office.

According to the Buffets Inc. website, the national franchise includes Old Country Buffet, Ryan's, Hometown Buffet, Fire Mountain and Country Buffet restaurants. The closest restaurants include Old Country Buffet in Latham and Vestal.

Buffets Inc. filed to reorganize its finances through Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan. 22, 2008, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. As of that filing date, the business was the nation's largest steak-buffet restaurant chain and the second largest restaurant company in the family-dining segment of the restaurant industry, with more than 600 company-operated restaurants and 16 franchise locations in more than 40 states, court records said.

The bankruptcy case remains open, a court official said Tuesday.

Messages left at Buffets Inc. corporate offices in Eagan, Minn., at about 11:40 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Tuesday weren't returned by 7 p.m.

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