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Friendly's franchisee says it will remodel some restaurants while in bankruptcy

The Friendly's location at 2151 Jericho Tpke. in

The Friendly's location at 2151 Jericho Tpke. in Commack on Jan. 7, 2015. Photo Credit: Meghan Giannotta

The Long Island-based Friendly's franchisee that filed for bankruptcy Tuesday intends to keep its remaining two dozen restaurants in New York and New Jersey open, and remodel nearly half of them.

J & B Restaurant Partners of Long Island LLC and its affiliates plan to keep their existing 24 restaurants open for at least three years, chief operating officer Dawn Petite disclosed in a bankruptcy court document filed Wednesday.

The J & B affiliates that filed for bankruptcy operate 18 Friendly's locations on Long Island and six in New Jersey.

At least 11 of the Friendly's will get a new look during the next three years, the Bohemia company said in a statement released late Tuesday. Petite said Wednesday that the company has not determined which locations will be upgraded.

J & B aims to emerge from bankruptcy within six months, the company said.

In the past year the company has closed 11 restaurants on Long Island.

Its remaining Friendly's locations on Long Island include those in East Meadow, Syosset, Miller Place, Coram, Mineola, Franklin Square, Stony Brook, Commack, Levittown, Riverhead, Smithtown, Middle Island, Massapequa Park, Shirley, East Islip, Lake Ronkonkoma, Baldwin and Sayville. A Friendly's restaurant in Hampton Bays is owned by an affiliated company that did not file for bankruptcy and will remain open, Petite said.

J & B's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was part of a pre-negotiated restructuring plan that will allow the company to shut down unprofitable restaurants and reduce its debts, according to J & B.

In the company's statement, Petite called the closings "a very difficult but necessary step in positioning J & B for financial health." The company, she said, "will continue to provide great food and ice cream, and friendly service to our customers."

In court papers J & B said the economic downturn of recent years "hit the restaurant industry hard" as consumers cut back on spending.

The company also faced a 50 percent increase in the cost of butter, which contributes to the price of cream, and a 30 percent jump in the cost of milk.

Moreover, a rapid expansion contributed to J & B's troubles.

In early 2011 J & B operated 32 locations on Long Island. Then the company spent nearly $2.4 million to buy 30 restaurants in the tristate area. "The negative impact of the economic downturn was thus magnified," court papers said.

When it filed for bankruptcy, the company had $14.6 million in secured debts. It employed about 1,400 people, mostly hourly workers.

In the first nine months of 2014, the company's sales slid 13.4 percent, compared with the same period in 2013.

The bankruptcy filing does not affect the national company, based in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, that produces Friendly's branded ice cream, and it will not have any impact on Friendly's restaurants operated by other companies.

It also will not affect J & B's food concession at Jones Beach State Park or its other businesses, the company said.

STILL FRIENDLY

Locations that remain open on LI

50 Montauk Hwy., East Islip

553 Hawkins Ave., Lake Ronkonkoma

1826 Hempstead Tpke., East Meadow

945 Merrick Rd., Baldwin

210 Montauk Hwy., Sayville

150 Jericho Tpke., Syosset

275 Rte. 25A, Miller Place

2220 Rte. 112, Coram

3287 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown

230 Jericho Tpke., Mineola

552 Franklin Ave., Franklin Square

201 Hallock Rd., Stony Brook

2151 Jericho Tpke., Commack

949 Old Country Rd., Riverhead

220 Mount Pleasant Rd., Smithtown

149 W. Montauk Hwy., Hampton Bays

848 Middle Country Rd., Middle Island

4812 Sunrise Hwy., Massapequa Park

940 Montauk Hwy., Shirley

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