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JB's Family Restaurants, founded in Utah as a Big Boy franchise a half-century ago and a survivor of several incarnations, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Arizona.

The Tempe, Ariz.-based chain reported assets of $7.3 million and liabilities of $10.3 million in its Feb. 28 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The company operates seven corporate restaurants — including locations in Salt Lake City and Hurricane — and has 15 franchised restaurants in six Western states. Franchises in Utah are located in Vernal, Richfield and Price.

"We are in the process of reorganizing our debt, and in the meantime, we will continue to operate the company stores, support our franchisees and provide services to our customers," said the company's lawyer, Robert Warnicke, at Phoenix-based firm Gordon Silver.

Under Chapter 11, a company is protected from creditors' claims while its works out a plan to repay its debts.

Court filings indicate that the corporation's largest unsecured creditors are based in San Francisco. Alliant Food is owed more than $913,000, while U.S. Food Services is owed $325,000. Sales taxes owed include $91,300 in Utah, $41,400 in Wyoming and $153,100 in Arizona.

JB's was founded in 1961 as a Big Boy franchise by Jack Broberg, a graduate of the University of Southern California who had worked as a Lockheed Corp. sales engineer and account executive. Broberg, a Utah native, opened his first restaurant at 500 W. 200 South in Provo. By 1965, the company operated a fourth store at 400 S. State Street in Salt Lake City, which also contained its general office, according to a company history and The Salt Lake Tribune archives.

In the late 1980s, JB's operated 107 restaurants.

The company ended its Big Boy franchise in 1987 and began franchising its JB's concept in 1991. It also introduced other concepts such as Galaxy Diner and Home Town Buffet restaurants.

Through the years, JB's went through a string of acquisitions and mergers. Although Broberg had retired from the company, he unsuccessfully attempted to buy it back in the mid-1990s through a coffee company based in San Diego. Broberg eventually returned to Utah to be near his daughter's family, and he died in Logan in 2001.

In 1996, JB's was acquired by CKE Restaurants Inc., known for its Hardee's and Carl's Jr. restaurant brands. And, in 2000, the Santa Barbara Restaurant Group sold JB's and Galaxy Diners to Lynn Whiteford of LBW Investments.

Whiteford, JB's company president, declined Wednesday to comment about the filing.

JB's has emerged from bankruptcy once before, according to a report byArizona Business & Money.The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002, which was tied to the economic turmoil caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. A final court decree was entered in 2004.

The company said in court filings last month that the effects of the Great Recession have brought a decline in business, forcing the bankruptcy petition.

In Utah

The company operates restaurants in Salt Lake City and Hurricane, and there are franchises in Vernal, Richfield and Price. Other franchises operate in five Western states.

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