Penguin Drive-In still closed, faces eviction

08/06/2014 2:09 PM

08/07/2014 6:24 AM

The Penguin Drive-In’s landlord has filed to evict the iconic Plaza Midwood eatery, court documents show.

The future of the restaurant has been in question since it closed about a week ago. Owner Lisa Ballentine said earlier this week that she temporarily closed the diner while an employee dealt with the death of a relative in Raleigh.

She had said the restaurant would reopen Wednesday, but there was no activity at the Penguin on Wednesday evening. A sign on the door read: “Revised open date August 7, 2014.” Ballentine’s cellphone voicemail box was full.

The property’s landlord, 1921 Commonwealth Avenue Holdings LLC, claims the restaurant violated the terms of its lease by failing to maintain electric service, according to eviction documents filed Monday. The documents also say the property appears to be abandoned.

Don Rawlins, a Charlotte attorney who co-owns the property, said he has not been in contact with Ballentine. He also said he has not verified with Duke Energy whether the restaurant has lost power service, but said it is clear the lights haven’t been on inside.

“The only thing I know is I can drive by and see what everybody else sees,” Rawlins said. “I would like to know what’s going on.”

A trial date on the eviction has been set for next week.

The eviction proceedings are the latest round of bad news for a 60-year-old business that has struggled through financial problems in recent years. In 2010, the restaurant was sued over claims it owed $17,000 on an outstanding loan.

In November, the Penguin filed for bankruptcy while owing $140,000 in federal taxes. This summer, a judge threw out one filing, and another was dismissed. Staff Writer Celeste Smith contributed.

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