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LI Friendly's stay open, despite corporate woes

Among the Friendly's restaurants on Long Island is

Among the Friendly's restaurants on Long Island is this operation at Jericho Turnpike and Indian Head Road in Commack. The chain's parent announced Oct. 5, 2011, that it is filing for bankruptcy. Photo Credit: Newsday, 2001 / John Paraskevas

All the Friendly’s restaurants on Long Island will stay open for business as usual in spite of the chain’s corporate decision Wednesday to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the company said.

With a current U.S. workforce of about 9,000, Friendly Ice Cream Corp., based in Wilbraham, Mass., says it has secured $70 million in financing and that its 424 remaining restaurants will stay open and pay employee salaries and benefits as it reorganizes under bankruptcy protection. It will honor gift cards.

The Massachusetts headquarters said it closed 63 of its nearly 500 restaurants nationwide, resulting in the loss of about 1,200 jobs.

Joseph Vitrano, whose Ronkonkoma-based J&B Restaurant Partners owns the 33 Friendly’s on Long Island and another 33 elsewhere in the New York City metro market, could not be reached for comment. A corporate executive, speaking on Vitrano’s behalf, said that in addition to keeping his current stable of restaurants Vitrano will continue with his previously-announced plan to expand by opening new Friendly’s outlets on the Island.

“For all our great guests on Long Island the bankruptcy means absolutely nothing will change. It will be business as usual at all our restaurants there,” Rich Tauberman, a corporate spokesman, said Wednesday.

“It’s a great market for us, a bright spot, and Joe’s a great franchisee,” Tauberman said. He said the parent company’s decision to enter bankruptcy protection was to “create a stronger financial base to expand and grow the company.”

The 76-year-old company known for its ice cream and hamburgers is the latest restaurant chain to file for bankruptcy. Friendly's said the economic downturn coupled with higher costs and high rents drove it to file for Chapter 11 protection.

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