HOBART — Two more Region restaurants abruptly closed at the end of the year.
Jamba Juice and Tilted Kilt both shuttered at the Southlake Mall in Hobart.
Signs taped to the door of the Jamba Juice, a national California-based chain specializing in freshly squeezed juices and smoothies, said the restaurant outside the Southlake Mall was permanently closed and encouraged customers to visit the Orland Park location instead.
The Tilted Kilt was closed during normal lunch hours Monday. No one answered the phone, and the company has removed the Hobart restaurant's individual website and removed it from its list of Indiana locations.
"The franchisee made the decision to retire and requested permission to close at the end of 2015," the company said in a statement. "We are working with the franchisees through the process. Tilted Kilt remains a vibrant and growing brand with 20 new locations slated to open nationwide in 2016. We encourage our loyal guests to visit any of the other 11 thriving locations in the Chicagoland area."
Tilted Kilt, which also abruptly closed its Chicago Ridge location in October, is a Las Vegas-based chain sometimes known as the "Scottish Hooters" or "Irish Hooters" because it makes its female servers wear plaid bras and short kilts.
Industry observers have disparaged such sports bar-style restaurants, which tend to focus more on scantily clad wait staff than food, as "breastaurants."
The Merrillville Tilted Kilt opened in the former Bennigan's outside the Southlake Mall and often displayed billboards on U.S. 30 taunting a nearby Hooters, which remains open, by asking "Hoo's better?"
Local trade unions boycotted the Tilted Kilt at the Southlake Mall because it hired a non-union contractor for renovation work.
The online reviews weren't exactly glowing. Yelp users complained about slow service, rudeness, botched orders and bad food.
"Worst fish and chips. ever," one Yelp reviewer wrote. "Could not tell if the 'cod' was oatmeal that had been deep fried or what."
Purdue University North Central Continuing Lecturer of Economics Anthony Sindone said restaurants all over have been struggling as middle-class incomes have fallen.
Mirage Grill in Merrillville and Bagger Dave's in Crown Point and Schererville also recently closed. The closings do not necessarily reflect the strength of the local dining market, Sindone said.
Chain restaurants tend to close locations near the end of the year, so they can get the maximum tax benefit in their tax returns and cut further losses.
"I know there are a few in the area that have closed due to low traffic," he said. "But that may have more to do with poor reviews, service, and food quality rather than for market reasons."