Long John Silvers closes

Long John Silvers in Fort Dodge has closed down permanently as of Monday.

The closure is due to reduced sales, said Richard Levitt, chairman of the board of Nellis Management. Nellis is an Urbandale-based company which owns and manages 31 Long John Silvers in Iowa, Illinois, Arizona and South Dakota.

Of those 31 stores, 16 are closing, Levitt said.

“We’ve been in this business for 41 years,” Levitt said. “Sales started to slide about a year and a half ago. The steepness of the slide has picked up quite a bit as of late.”

Part of this was due to negative publicity since Long Johns used trans-fat oil to cook the fish, he said.

“Then our franchisor out of Louisville Ky., changed to non-trans-fat oil several months ago, and the non-trans-fat oil was not acceptable to our guests. So they stopped coming like they were before,” Levitt said.

He said the company will sell the Fort Dodge building.

“We’re going to look into other uses for the real estate,” he said.

Levitt said a new oil has been in use for just a few weeks now, and that oil appears to be acceptable to customers. He hopes that the trend can be reversed.

“We’re hoping the brand will be back to where it was in the glory days,” he said.

And if that happens, “we would look at reopening stores,” he said. “On bended knee we’d try to get back some of the employees we’ve lost. They know the business and they were performing at a very high level.”