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IHOP seeks new owners for 4 sites owned by bankrupt franchisee

The IHOP chain is working on securing new owners for at least two of the four IHOP restaurants in the region in a bankruptcy case filed by an IHOP franchisee.

Mark Schlant, an attorney for franchisee Pancake Partners, said at a bankruptcy court hearing Monday that the California-based franchisor is working on lining up new owners for IHOPs in Cheektowaga and Henrietta. He did not identify the potential buyers.

Schlant said the chain also hopes to secure new owners for the other two restaurants involved in the case, in North Buffalo and Orchard Park.

The state Department of Taxation and Finance has pushed for Pancake Partners' Chapter 11 bankruptcy case to be dismissed or converted to a Chapter 7 liquidation. The agency says Pancake Partners has not demonstrated it is capable of restructuring, citing more than $53,000 in unpaid state sales tax revenues as one factor.

Christopher Moen, a lawyer for the state agency, agreed to give Pancake Partners until July 12 to resolve the situation. Moen said the agency hopes to prevent the four affected restaurants from closing and to allow new, tax-paying ownership to step in.

"I'm willing to wait a little longer to get this done, but we need to put an end to this at some point," Moen told U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Carl Bucki.

The Internal Revenue Service has said it is owed about $439,000 in withholding and Social Security taxes from Pancake Partners. The entity, launched by the father-son team of L. Joseph and Brad Woodard, filed for bankruptcy in summer 2009.

Another area IHOP, on Maple Road in Amherst, is not owned by Pancake Partners and is not part of the case.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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