FREEPORT — The Ground Round restaurant chain, headquartered in Freeport, says it expects to become debt-free with its final bank payment this month.

The Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative was created by franchise owners who stepped up to raise nearly $5 million in cash and financing to acquire the brand and franchise rights in 2004, after Ground Round filed for bankruptcy and closed company-owned restaurants.

Ground Round Grill & Bar was created by the Howard Johnson’s in 1969, and there were several hundred locations at one point in the early 1980s.

The Ground Round IOC now operates 24 Ground Round restaurants located in 10 states in the Midwest and Northeast.

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