Applebee's has closed its Block E restaurant, leaving the soon-to-be-overhauled retail complex with yet another empty spot.

The family eatery shut down Sunday night, said Diann Banaszek, a marketing partner at Apple American Group LLC in Cleveland, an Applebee's franchisee that owned the Block E restaurant.

"We closed because the center is taking the whole complex into a different direction and Applebee's didn't work into that plan," Banaszek said. "By mutual consent we closed."

Banaszek said she didn't know what direction Block E was taking. Her group has 62 restaurants in the Twin Cities area.

Block E's current owner, Minneapolis-based Alatus Partners, wouldn't say whether the closure was part of a new strategy for the troubled mall. "It's an Applebee's thing," Alatus spokeswoman Susan Evans said.

Alatus Partners, run by developer Bob Lux and Phillip Jaffe, bought Block E last summer for $14 million and the assumption of $28.5 million in tax increment finance repayments.

Lux promised a new plan for the troubled mall, but hasn't revealed anything. Behind the scenes, he has been shopping the idea of an upscale casino for the spot as a companion to the Graves 601 Hotel Wyndham Grand, the luxury hotel attached to Block E.

Applebee's was one of the early Block E tenants. It opened in 2003, not long after Block E threw open its doors in the fall of 2002. There has been a steady exodus from the ailing mall, including Hooters, Borders Books, Bellanotte and Sega GameWorks. Notable tenants include Hard Rock Café, Kieran's Irish Pub and the 15-screen AMC Theatre.

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683