The popular Chili's location in downtown Tempe will close its doors on January 8, ending a 25-year run as one the area's most stable restaurants.
Located at the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive since 1989, Chili's Tempe lasted through several periods of immense change in the downtown area near Arizona State University.
The restaurant also was allowed to stay even as ASU decided to boot out other businesses in the 10.5-acre plot of land at that corner, like the old Stabler's Market and Ray's Barber Shop.
ASU long has had big plans for the defunct strip mall at the high-profile location, but it stayed a dilapidated ghost-mall for many years -- with the Chili's on its grassy knoll -- as various development ideas sunk.
In July, though, USA Basketball announced that it had made a deal with ASU to build a $350 million new home at the site called USA Place. USA Basketball, headquartered in Colorado until the project is finished (possibly by 2015), trains and selects America's basketball Olympic teams in addition to promoting the sport in general. The massive development will include a 30,000-square-foot conference center, a 4,500-seat exhibition arena, a 330-room luxury hotel, a 500-unit apartment complex, and retail and office space.
Chili's corporate office confirmed for New Times that the Tempe location's doors will close at 2 p.m. Wednesday, January 8, the expiration date of a lease that isn't being renewed.
"We are very grateful to the loyal guests who have visited the restaurant over the years," company officials said in a statement.
Employees are being transferred to other locations.
"We're sad to be closing our doors, as this was a very popular restaurant to our local community," says Julie Flowers, Chili's spokeswoman.
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As popular as Chili's was, USA Place is expected to draw 300,000 yearly visitors once it's completed. For Mill Avenue, which still has barren storefronts left over from the ravages of the Great Recession, the new development no doubt will be even better than bacon-wrapped shrimp.
UPDATE -- Flowers e-mailed just as we were finishing up this post with news of another closing. The Chili's at 2057 East Camelback Road will be shuttered on Monday, January 6, also to make way for new development, she says.
Don't stress if you like the chain, though -- after January 8, there will still be 24 Chili's in metro Phoenix.