Walt Disney Co. is shutting down most of its ESPN Zone stores, a chain of sports-themed restaurants in seven cities, according to a person familiar with the matter. The only outlets to remain open are those tied to a Disney property, such as the Downtown Disney shopping district in Anaheim.
ESPN Zone opened in 1998 to capitalize on ESPN's brand while bringing Disney's family-friendly atmosphere to the sports bar concept. The upscale eateries serve burgers and brews as walls of big-screen TVs beam sporting events into the dining area. Separate rooms provide access to interactive games such as virtual golf.
It's unclear what has prompted Disney to close the establishments, although the bars may well be a casualty of the recession.
"Since their inception, the Zones have served sports fans very well," an ESPN spokesman said. "But from a pure business perspective, the economics have been challenging."