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Chili’s Grille in Vernon Hills closes suddenly

Brinker International, owner of the 968-unit Chili’s Grille and Bar franchise, has informed the city of Vernon Hills, Illinois that the restaurant would not reopen nor would it be replaced by any of the other food and dining operations owned by the corporation.

The Dallas-based corporation with about 1,400 restaurants and sales exceeding $3 billion annually, recently announced the closing of 30 restaurants in the United States. The list of under-performing operations included the Vernon Hills Chili’s.

John Kalmar, assistant village manager, speculated the widely reported health problems traced to a salmonella outbreak at Chili’s last summer may have contributed to the decision not to replace the restaurant with one of its portfolio of dining concepts that include Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Maggiano’s Little Italy, Big Bowl Asian Kitchen, Rockfish Seafood Grill and the Corner Bakery.

The salmonella epidemic affected more than 300 persons who dined at the Vernon Hills restaurant between June 23 and July 1 in 2003. Chili’s reopened July 11 after passing required health tests and after it underwent extensive cleaning and sanitizing and retraining of employees. No fines or other punitive action was taken because the restaurant acted in a cooperative manner after the bacterial health problems surfaced.

Brinker agreed to reimburse the county for $32,500 in expenses connected to the unusual costs for testing and staff training.