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Photo by Dave Flessner / The ChopHouse on Gunbarrel Road near Hamilton Place Mall will close Jan. 15 after 25 years in business.

The Chop House in East Brainerd is closing this month after 25 years in business.

The Knoxville-based steakhouse chain, which opened its Chattanooga restaurant at 2011 Gunbarrel Road in 1994 as the company's fourth unit, will close the 7,088-square-foot eatery on Jan. 15. The shutdown is the first for the Chop House chain, which restaurateur Mike Connor started in Knoxville in 1992 after previously managing Steak & Ale restaurants in Knoxville and in Brainerd in the late 1970s.

"Of the 11 Chop House restaurants we have opened this will be the first we have closed, but it's just become a very competitive market in that area and it's been more difficult than our other units," Connor said Friday. "It just came down to a point where it is no longer successful. I still like the Chattanooga market and we may be looking for other locations around that region in the future."

Over the past two decades, dozens of new restaurants have opened at and around Hamilton Place, including nearby rivals such as Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, the Miller's Ale House, the Cheesecake Factory, Drake's and and others. 

(Read more: Hungry for something new? A look at the city's newest and coming restaurants)

The closing will idle about 80 full- and part-time workers, but Connor said all of the displaced workers will be offered the chance to work at other ChopHouse restaurants or Connors Steak & Seafood restaurants, which Connor Concepts Inc. also operates.

"We had a lot of veteran employees at that location, but we'll be offering them jobs elsewhere," Connor said. "In this environment, staffing restaurants is very difficult in many markets."

some text Photo by Dave Flessner / The Chattanooga ChopHouse was the fourth restaurant for the Knoxville-based steakhouse chain when it opened in 1994 and will be the first of the 11 restaurants the company has ever closed.

Connor, a University of Tennessee graduate, began his restaurant career with Steak & Ale in Knoxville and worked at other locations until 1982 when he joined with the Regas family of Knoxville to create the Grady's Goodtimes restaurant chain. Over the next seven years Mike served as president of Grady's and opened seven additional restaurants before merging with Chili's Brinker International. Since starting the Chop House chain in 1992, Connor has build 11 Chop House and four Connor's Steak & Seafood restaurants from Florida to Ohio.

The private equity firm CapitalSpring recently helped recapitalize Connor Concepts and the chain is looking to open a couple of new restaurants a year.

Connor, who continues to own a majority interest in the restaurant chain that bears his name, also owns the Gunbarrel Road property where the Chop House is located, along with other investors. Connor said he is still unsure of what he will do with the property after the Chop House closes.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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