by: Greg Suskin Updated:
In a court filing Thursday, the owner of the Penguin Drive-In, in Plaza-Midwood, said the business owes $375,000 to 19 different creditors. That sum includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid federal, state and city taxes, as well as $17,579 in unpaid rent to her landlord.
It's that unpaid rent that led a judge to order the restaurant evicted Thursday morning. The landlord, Commonwealth Avenue Holdings, was allowed to take possession of the property.
The restaurant has been closed for several weeks.
The lights are off, and some legal documents are stuck in the door at the restaurant.
Neighbors told Channel 9 they have wondered for weeks what’s been going on. Rebecca Roach works at a salon next door.
"It’s kind of a staple of the neighborhood and a landmark, so it's unfortunate to see it's not here," she said.
For 60 years, the Penguin Drive-In was known for its burgers, barbecue and friendly service.
Last month, owner Lisa Ballentine told Channel 9 the business was closed temporarily due to a death in the family and would reopen shortly. It hasn’t.
Penny Craver runs The Dish, across the street. She’s not surprised at what happened but still feels a sense of loss.
"The Penguin had a great reputation at one time. It brought people to the neighborhood," she said.
Late Thursday, Ballentine sent Channel 9 an email about the future of the restaurant.
From the attorneys representing The Penguin Drive In:
"The Penguin Drive In filed Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings this morning in the Western District of North Carolina. Subsequently an order was filed in Mecklenburg County for a summary ejectment.
"The order was filed after the reorganization, which makes the summary ejectment null and void.
Penguin Drive In Statement:
"The Penguin appreciates the tremendous amount of love and support we receive each day from our loyal customers, the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood, and all of the members of the news media.
"We will reopen for business next week, after our first break in over five years.
The Precious Penguin fundraiser being held in memory of Denise Michelle Holiday for the surviving family members of her family will be held on Wednesday August 20, 2014 5pm-8pm."
Ballentine and her attorney said they could not comment further on the matter.
Lawyers for Commonwealth Avenue Holdings were also unavailable for comment following the eviction hearing.
Oct. 24, 2013:Penguin Drive-In being sued by landlord over lease, loan
Sept. 21, 2010: The Penguin Drive-In To Change Management, Concept