Penguin Drive-In being sued by landlord over lease, loan

by: Peter Daut Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For decades, the Penguin Drive-In has been one of Charlotte's most recognizable eateries.

However, the Plaza-Midwood diner is now being sued by its landlord.

The Penguin has been a part of Plaza-Midwood since 1954. It's an iconic eatery, known for its fried pickles. The business is now in a pickle of its own, after its landlord filed a lawsuit, alleging the Penguin defaulted on its lease and a nearly $17,000 loan made earlier this year.

The building's owner has demanded the restaurant turn over the property, and wants possession of the collateral put up to secure the loan, including accounts, equipment, inventory and intellectual property.

"I feel like there's some karma involved in all this," Blake Barnes, the owner of nearby Common Market, said.

A few years ago, some members of the family that founded the Penguin did not renew the lease with the operators at the time, which Barnes said left a bad taste in many people's mouths.

"They could have done it so much differently and kept that synergy in this neighborhood, to where now, the Penguin's really become a desolate building," he said.

Some of the Penguin's former operators re-opened just steps away at the Diamond, forcing visitors in the neighborhood to choose sides.

Pinky's Westside Grill also has a connection, since its founder, Greg Auten, was part of the group that once ran the Penguin.

"I don't think they ever really got going after the mess a few years ago. So it wasn't really that big of a surprise," Auten said.

Eyewitness News reached out to both the Penguin and the attorney representing the landlord, but both sides did not return calls.