Skip to main content

The Mall of America is suing a restaurant and its co-owner, alleging it signed a lease agreement, failed to pay rent and ultimately never opened.

The chain restaurant, Chicken Guy, and its co-founder Robert Earl are named as the defendants in the lawsuit. The fast-casual establishment was also co-founded by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, but only Earl's name is on the lawsuit filed in Hennepin County.

Chicken Guy was originally supposed to open in early 2020, signing a lease in August 2019 inside the North food court. However, the place never opened, nor did construction even begin. 

According to the lawsuit filed on Sept. 9, the mall is accusing Chicken Guy of breaching its lease by failing to pay rent, begin any construction, and open by mid-June 2021. In addition, Earl Enterprises is named and accused of committing "fraud by omission" after presenting the company as a "credit-worthy entity" to pay its financial obligations in full under the lease, which runs through June 2032. 

The total amount due for "past rental obligations" under the signed lease is $292,333.20 as of July 31, according to court documents. 

The MOA is now seeking more than $3 million from Earl and his company to cover the rent owed through the end of the lease, with attorney fees and court costs also included.

It was previously announced in August 2019 that the Florida-based chain would open at the mall.

The defendants are denying all wrongdoing, liability and damages. Chicken Guy, Earl and his company are requesting a jury trial in response.

The company is arguing it was excused from the lease as a result of the pandemic. The mall closed briefly in March 2020, before reopening in June 2020. 

"Defendant’s obligation to perform any of alleged obligations under the lease and Guaranty was excused because the purpose and object of the lease and Guaranty, and performance under the lease and Guaranty, became impossible and commercially impracticable as a result of the pandemic," a court filing by attorneys for Chicken Guy, Earl and his company reads.

Earl and his company state Chicken Guy is entitled to "an abatement or reduction in rent" for the period during which the mall was closed for three months in 2020.

According to Earl Enterprises' website, Earl owns multiple restaurants including Planet Hollywood — another former MOA location owned by Earl that closed in 2003 — and Buca Di Beppo, once based out of Minneapolis.

Chicken Guy's website shows seven locations that are currently open and three more restaurants that are "coming soon." None of them are the MOA location.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-10-01 at 10.18.12 AM

3 St. Paul fast food restaurants robbed in space of an hour

The thieves struck between 7:15 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Screen Shot 2022-10-01 at 9.06.40 AM

What to do with the Kmart site? Minneapolis wants your ideas

The project will connect Nicollet Avenue south of Lake street and north of the Midtown Greenway, reestablishing a street grid.

Screen Shot 2022-10-01 at 7.53.55 AM

Crowd evacuated at end of homecoming football game in Brooklyn Park

Police blamed 'unruly teens' in the stands and some who were trying to enter the stadium.


State to help 44 Minnesota gas stations add E15 pumps

The yellow 88 button is coming to more gas stations in Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2022-09-30 at 4.54.42 PM

FBI, police investigating bank robbery at Edina's 50th and France

An ATM technician was robbed by four men at a U.S. Bank.

Ethan Glynn

Paralyzed Bloomington football player begins rehabilitation in Colorado

Ethan Glynn is at a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital.

Press Bar fire

Owner of St. Cloud bar gets 6 years for arson, ordered to repay $3M

A February 2020 fire at the Press Bar and Parlor was later determined to be an insurance job.


Bloomington, Richfield districts tighten security ahead of weekend football

Enhanced safety measures will be in place this weekend.

Screen Shot 2022-09-30 at 2.23.15 PM

Walz sends MN first responders to help with hurricane recovery in Florida

Eight members of the Minnesota All Hazards Incident Management Team will travel to Florida.


Screen Shot 2022-05-18 at 12.54.22 PM

Opening of new wrap-around movie theater at MOA delayed until July

B&B Theaters was originally set to open the new theater in mid-June.

Chapel of Love at Mall of America

Chapel of Love set to close at Mall of America after nearly 30 years

The owner cited retirement as the reason for the closure.


For sale: St. Paul '50s drive-in that featured on Guy Fieri show

It's one of the last remaining original drive-ins in the Twin Cities.