Westmoreland Piccadilly closing

The Piccadilly Cafeteria at at 3164 Government St. in the Westmoreland Village Shopping Center is closing on Sunday after 55 years in business.

A manager at the restaurant confirmed the closing Thursday evening and referred questions to Piccadilly’s corporate offices. The offices were closed for the evening.

Piccadilly is one of the key tenants of the shopping center. Along with offering Dilly dishes of fried fish, fried chicken and Salisbury steak, the restaurant also featured free musical entertainment, from the likes of acclaimed local bluesman Henry Gray.

The Westmoreland Piccadilly opened in 1959. There were plans to close the location in 1993, but it stayed open after Piccadilly dropped plans to open a restaurant at Perkins Road and Balis Drive.

Liz Walker, one of the founders of Mid City Merchants, said news of the closing is “disappointing.” Walker said she and her family regularly ate at the restaurant when she was a young girl in the 1960s. She continued going to the Westmoreland Piccadilly as an adult.

“The quality of the food did not drop and the staff was always very, very nice,” she said. “The fried chicken was the best for years, they always had a good vegetable selection and it’s reasonably priced.”

Walker, who owns the Elizabethan Gallery on Jefferson Highway, said Midcity will continue to have a Piccadilly on Florida Boulevard, near Ardenwood Drive. And she notes that Westmoreland is now owned by a nonprofit affiliated with Catholic High School, which plans to improve the property.

“They have a vision for the future that will only enhance the area,” Walker said. “Catholic High is not going to let that space sit there vacant.”

Piccadilly was founded in 1944 in downtown Baton Rouge. The company chain grew steadily, going public in 1979.

But customer tastes turned away from cafeteria-style dining and the chain’s fortunes faded. Expansion efforts through acquisitions failed to improve Piccadilly’s outlook. In 2003, Piccadilly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the time, the company had 175 restaurants. In 2004, Yucaipa Cos. of California bought the company for $80 million and took Piccadilly private.

In 2012, Piccadilly again asked a bankruptcy court for protection from its creditors. At the time, Piccadilly had more than 80 locations. It also was putting greater emphasis — with 70 locations in place — on a food service division it formed in 2005. It was designed to capitalize on Piccadilly’s brand name by providing meals for the employees, students or residents of companies, manufacturing plants, universities, private schools and senior living centers.

During its reorganization, Piccadilly shed a number of underperforming locations and further emphasized service to institutional customers.

Earlier this year, a federal bankruptcy court judge approved a reorganization plan for Piccadilly that put ownership in the hands of New York investment firm Atalaya Capital Management. According to the Piccadilly website, the chain now has 57 restaurants across the U.S.