WATERVILLE — The Taco Bell restaurant on Main Street abruptly closed its doors at the end of May without notice, owing more than $44,000 in rent.

The 345 Main St. location, where a former Bank of America branch had been sited, opened in January after receiving special zoning approval from the city after the change had been sought for years. A note on the door of the restaurant states that the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office posted notice of a court-ordered writ of possession, essentially an eviction notice, on May 22.

The former bank building was demolished to make way for the new building. The Facebook page for the Main Street location continues to post, most recently with a promotional offer on June 13. A for lease sign is outside the property now.

A media representative from Taco Bell’s corporate headquarters did not respond to a request for comment on why the national fast food chain decided to shutter the Main Street location. The company’s website now only lists one restaurant location in Waterville, which is on Kennedy Memorial Drive. There are also two locations in Augusta.

Harry McKenney, chief civil deputy with the sheriff’s office, said a writ of possession is usually used with housing issues, but in this case, it was a commercial issue in which an individual failed to meet local obligations. According to a complaint for forcible entry and detainer filed in the Waterville District Court, the building is owned by a company called GME Investments LLC and is leased to another company named C2C East LLC.

The document says C2C East owes more than $44,000 in rent. The company has not paid rent for December 2017 or January, February and March of this year, as well as taxes and utilities. The tenant “has unlawfully refused and still refuses to quit the premises.” The court document is dated April 5. Representatives of C2C East did not appear in court regarding the case on April 27.

A GME Investments LLC that is a real estate and investment firm based out of Washington, D.C., though it’s not clear if that is the same company, as the website does not list any Maine holdings. The court document does not list an address for the company, which was represented by local attorney Daniel Bernier. According to real estate franchise information for a different Taco Bell, C2C East is a restaurant franchisee that has multiple Taco Bell restaurants and is based in California.

McKenney said the tenants were served with the forced entry detainer and given 48 hours to leave. After that, the sheriff’s office chained locks to the door to enforce the detainer.

Garvan Donegan, an economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, a public-private collaborative group based in Waterville, said he was aware the restaurant had closed, but did not have details on the closure. He said these decisions are often made on a higher corporate level when it comes to national brands like Taco Bell.

With an improving economy and an up-tick in retail and food service industries in the area, Donegan doesn’t believe Taco Bell’s decision to close the Main Street location is a bad sign for the city. Other national brands, such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries which opened last year on Main Street, are still interested in doing business in the city, he said.

“I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be a local economic signal,” he said.

Taco Bell has been the victim of several social media hoax campaigns. On multiple occasions, a link that appeared to be a credible news story — usually shared on Facebook — stated Taco Bell would be shuttering all of its United States locations after declaring for bankruptcy. Taco Bell has nearly 7,000 locations worldwide and is worth nearly $2 billion.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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