Joe's Crab Shack abruptly closes in Hobart

The Joe's Crab Shack in Hobart is closed.

Seafood lovers may become crabby after learning that Joe's Crab Shack abruptly closed in Hobart after 20 years.

The sit-down restaurant chain that served up crab buckets and steampots suddenly shuttered its location at 2757 E 80th Ave., in the Southlake Mall retail trade area. Signs posted on doors around the building say "Joe's is closed 4 EVA!"

The Houston, Texas-based corporate office did not return calls seeking comment.

The restaurant known for sweet snow crab, clams by the pound, and cold water lobster tail was built in the Crossings of Hobart shopping plaza in 1997. Recent reviews on Yelp were largely negative, with diners complaining about quality, portions and price, and that it had gone downhill.

Joe's Crab Shack was started in Houston in 1991. The chain is known for laid-back ambiance, kitschy beach cabana-like dining rooms, a menu with more than 25 crab offerings and a variety of other seafood items like shrimp, mussels and fish. Signs painted on the window in the Merrillville locations include "crabs gone wild," "99 problems but a crab ain't one," "don't worry, be crabby" and "hottest legs in town."

The chain grew to 130 location in more than 40 states, and attempted to phase out tipping by paying servers more two years ago.

UPDATED: Retailpocalypse: A look at businesses that are closing in the Region

The business blog Consumerist reported Joe's Crab Shack suddenly closed at least 40 locations across the country this week, including all of its restaurants in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. The Joe's Crab Shack website only lists 72 stores as still being open, and removed the Merrillville listing.

Its parent company, Ignite Restaurant Group, which also owns Brick House Tavern + Tap, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June. The company said in a press release it was trying to sell off the restaurant brands to the San Diego-based private equity firm Kelly Companies.

“Today’s sale agreement represents the culmination of a long and thorough process, and is an important step in positioning Joe’s and Brick House for future growth and success,” Jonathan Tibus, chief executive officer said in the press release regarding its bankruptcy filing. 

The closure is just the latest in the so-called retail apocalypse, which has driven many brick-and-mortar establishments out of business and is readily apparent from the Joe's Crab Shack parking lot at U.S. 30 and Colorado Street in Hobart. A Don Pablo's Tex-Mex restaurant that closed in 2014 sits empty across Colorado Street, and a H.H. Gregg is vacant right across the highway after that Indianapolis-based chain went under earlier this year.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.