Decatur O’Charleys, last in state, closes its doors

DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — The State of Alabama’s final O’Charleys location closed over the weekend.

The restaurant is now permanently closed, according to the chain’s own website.

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A report from said Decatur’s O’Charleys was the last location still open in the state after the final Birmingham area restaurant closed in November 2023. Locations in Prattville, Foley, and Daphne also reportedly closed in 2023.

Restaurant Business reported last fall that by August 23, 2023, the chain had closed over 50 stores nationwide that year.

“I didn’t expect it, but…it is what it is,” O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar Former Server Denyse Forton said.

Forton used to serve at O’Charley’s. She’s one of many servers’ former patrons of the establishment say they’ll miss dearly. People living in the area – taking to Facebook, searching for their favorite servers, and sharing their favorite meals.

“When somebody comes to O’Charley’s they ask if Martell is in there and cooking. It’s deep in my heart with O’Charley’s because of the community and the people that come in here. Also, my co-workers, people I’ve been working with for a long time, it’s just like family,” O’Charley’s Restaurant & Bar Former Cook Martel Matthews said.

Matthews says he’s been working here for 20 years. He is disappointed with the corporation’s decision to close his location.

“We were always here to serve the community. We loved serving the community, and that was our number one goal…to make Decatur happy,” said Matthews.

The Nashville-based franchise has been eliminating its Alabama restaurants over the last year, due to changes in the restaurant industry and economic factors. Forton tells News 19 she worked at O’Charley’s for nearly three years and is going to miss her co-workers.

“The younger ones, they would come and bring me their problems and they would talk to me about things that were going on at home. That part is going to be hard to get over. The work itself is back-breaking and feet-blistering, but the friends I made here…I’m not going to forget that,” Forton added.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Those who worked at O’Charley’s hope you’ll never forget the memories made inside these four walls.

“Remember the good times. Remember the great food. Remember the ‘Free Pies Wednesdays!’ There was so much to choose from,” said Forton.

News 19 was provided the following statement by O’Charley’s CEO W. Craig Barber:

“Like many brands in the casual dining space, we have faced unprecedented disruptions to our business over the last few years. Based on a variety of these industry challenges and the current macro-economic environment, we closed this O’Charley’s location as of  February 5.  

It is always a difficult decision to close a store, but the decision aligns with a variety of actions to ensure we continue to thrive as a brand. The O’Charley’s brand is proud to have been the place for great food and good times for more than 50 years and we look forward to continuing this legacy for the next 50. 

We appreciate our loyal guests who have visited us at this location while also being deeply grateful for the outstanding work of our operating team. We are working with these team members now to relocate any to another store if they are able, as well as helping those who may need new employment. 

We encourage our guests to visit us at any of our other restaurants across the Southeast and Midwest.”

W. Craig Barber, O’Charley’s CEO

The ‘relaxed’ chain restaurant was started in Nashville, Tennessee by Charlie Watkins in 1971, and has grown to have locations in 13 different states, not including the now ‘O’Charleys-less’ Alabama.

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