Hard Rock Cafe

Hard Rock Cafe at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.

Sean M. Fitzgerald

ATLANTIC CITY — Elvis — or at least his shirt — may have to leave the building.

The Hard Rock Cafe located inside Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort warned Thursday that it may close its rock music-themed restaurant as soon as April 22 and lay off 73 workers.

If Hard Rock closes, it will take its array of rock ’n’ roll memorabilia with it, including a dark shirt, trimmed with a King-like gold decoration, once worn by Elvis Presley.

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In a statement, parent company Hard Rock International said it filed layoff notices with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development in the event the Taj Mahal’s bankruptcy plan is not approved and the casino closes. Hard Rock noted it will keep the restaurant open if the casino stays in business.

“At this time, Hard Rock International intends to operate its Atlantic City cafe location through the balance of its lease. The company will not close the location unless the Taj Mahal, the casino in which the cafe resides, closes,” the statement said.

The Taj Mahal is trying to emerge from bankruptcy under a new owner, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who is giving the casino a $20 million infusion to keep it alive. Parent company Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. repeatedly threatened to close the Taj Mahal last year amid the casino’s financial struggles.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, Hard Rock tried to get the court to force the casino to say whether it will honor its lease. In its statement Thursday, Hard Rock said it plans to operate the restaurant through its current lease expiring in the fourth quarter of 2016.

“Since opening its doors in 1996, the brand has been and continues to be committed to Atlantic City and brand expansion within New Jersey,” Hard Rock’s statement said.

Hard Rock opened in the Taj Mahal in November 1996 amid great fanfare over its hallmark rock memorabilia — red leather shoes worn by Michael Jackson, a black leather vest worn by Steppenwolf’s John Kay, and Mick Jagger’s studded vest.

Carrying the rock theme further, the restaurant’s bar is shaped like a Gibson guitar. Customers are surrounded by memorabilia hanging from the walls and preserved in display cases.

A black acoustic guitar played by Bruce Springsteen in his “One Step Up” video is a centerpiece of a New Jersey-themed exhibit also featuring Bon Jovi.

Also prominently displayed is a beat-up leather jacket worn by Jimi Hendrix during a concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Autographed photos or guitars by the likes of Slash, Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne and other rock icons adorn the restaurant.

Hard Rock’s management in Atlantic City refused a request by The Press of Atlantic City to interview restaurant customers Thursday.

Hard Rock did not immediately say whether it would move to another Atlantic City location if its restaurant inside the Taj Mahal closed down. Hard Rock Cafe’s other nearest locations are in Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The company’s layoff notice filed with the state labor department warns of a potential April 22 closing.

“Conditional notices required under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act were issued to employees in the event that the Taj Mahal bankruptcy plan is not approved, resulting in the closure of the Taj Mahal,” Hard Rock said.

The workers include bartenders, cooks, dishwashers, cleaners, servers and retail sales.

Contact Brian Ianieri:

609-272-7253

@BIanieri on Twitter

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

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