LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – An iconic Lexington restaurant has closed its doors. On Wednesday, employees and customers of the historic Parkette Drive-In were stunned to find the business was closed, possibly for good.

“We are closed ladies and gentlemen. We are devastated. There’s 24 of us out of work, we didn’t want that,” former co-owner Randy Kaplan told reporters. Kaplan along with his brother had owned the Parkette Drive-In for 13 years, but like many, the business had struggled against post-pandemic inflation and disrupted supply chains.

“I have not had a complete order since March of 2020. I could not get supplies,” Kaplan said.

As business strains increased, several weeks ago the Kaplans began negotiating an early exit to their lease to transfer it back to the original owners, the Smiley and Tipton families. But Kaplan did not expect any changes.

“I was actually told that. We were going to operate as normal; I was going to stay on as the operating manager of the company, keep my crew, and operate as normal and then look at improvements, which Parkette needs improvements,” Kaplan said.

“We left here yesterday with hopes of coming to work today,” Billie Jean Crowe said. Crowe is Kaplan’s daughter and had worked at the drive-in for 13 years.

On the front door of the dining room were a padlock and chain. Several employees showed up to work and were devastated to learn the news

“I have a son at home that doesn’t know what me or his dad are going to do for money because we both worked at Parkette and we had no warning,” former employee Ashley Solis said.

“The decision was made late to close Parkette because Parkette is a failing business,” current owner Bryan Tipton said. Tipton is the son-in-law of the restaurant’s founder. He called the closing a tragedy and a tough decision

“Emotions are high, there’s a lot of people out of work and we don’t take that lightly either, but we all know that a business has to be profitable to be in business and that’s the bottom line,” he said.

But for many employees and regulars, leaving the Parkette for the last time also means leaving generations of memories.

Tipton said there are still no set plans for what they will now do with the property and is open to options including a sale. He said ultimately this decision was so the current leaseholders would not get stuck in a bankruptcy.

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