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Fresno’s two kid-friendly Chuck E. Cheese pizza restaurants will reopen their dining rooms Friday with limited seating and other safety procedures in place, local managers said.

Most of the stores’ electronic games will be operational, but mascot Chuck E. Cheese himself will remain in lockdown for the time being.

Like other Fresno restaurants, Chuck E. Cheese locations closed their dining rooms when the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders were issued in mid-March. Both local stores have only been offering take-out service since then.

Christine Flores, who manages the North Blackstone Avenue restaurant, is eager to have families return. “We’re just looking forward to getting back open,” she said.

Parent Company Seeks Bankruptcy Protection

The move comes as the nationwide chain struggles to remain afloat. Parent company CEC Entertainment filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday but said it will continue to reopen stores while it negotiates with its creditors.

Company officials said the prolonged closure of many outlets due to coronavirus restrictions led to the bankruptcy filing.

CEC and its franchisees operate 734 restaurants in 47 states and 16 countries. As of Thursday, CEC has reopened 266 of its 555 company-operated Chuck E. Cheese and Peter Piper Pizza restaurants.

Both Fresno Chuck E. Cheese locations are company-owned.

Focus on Safety and Sanitation

Saul Esquivel, manager of the West Shaw Avenue location, said workers will follow required health and sanitation requirements.

“All of our employees are going to be wearing gloves, sanitizing on a regular basis between tasks,” he said. “We’ll have someone exclusively going through the store, cleaning constantly.”

Guests will be asked to wear masks when they’re not eating at their tables, Esquivel said, and social distancing markers will be visible throughout the store.

To provide enough separation between customers, some games will be turned off, but “we’re shooting for about 70 percent of our games to be on and available,” he said.

However, the chain’s namesake mouse character, who often roams the floor greeting patrons, will not be returning for awhile, Esquivel said.

Chain Founded in San Jose

Chuck E. Cheese got its start in San Jose in 1977 when Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell opened Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, featuring a cast of animatronic characters.

“Where a kid can be a kid,” the chain promises in its tag line.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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