Fans of The Rusty Rudder, a fixture on Lake Norman’s dining and entertainment scene for 15 years, have started an online petition to convince the property owner to renew the restaurant’s lease. The petition collected 725 signatures by midday Thursday.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce The Rusty Rudder Lake Norman will be closing its doors,” owners Eric Paul and Brian Johnston said in a statement on Tuesday, hours after announcing the Oct. 3 closing to their staff. “Regrettably, our landlord has decided not to renew the lease after 15 years of business, forcing us to close our doors.”
The landlord gave no reason for not renewing the lease, Johnston told the Observer.
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Steve McLeod, whose Davidson-based McLeod Corp. owns the site, has not replied to requests for comment from the Observer.
McLeod formed the marina and land development firm in 1985, according to its incorporation papers filed with the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office. The Rusty Rudder building and land have a total tax appraisal of $4 million, Mecklenburg County tax records show.
The petition on change.org tries to convey what the restaurant has meant to its employees, patrons and community.
“The Rusty Rudder is a restaurant that has been alive and well for 15 years on Lake Norman in Cornelius, NC,” the petition reads. “It is locally owned and everyone here has a story to tell from ‘The Rudder.’ A town staple and a place where out of towners flock, too, it’s the only place on the lake where you can come right off the lake as you are and feel welcomed with open arms.”
The petition, started by Rusty Rudder devotee John Hamrick, notes the live music and tiki bar that helped earn The Rudder an “LKN’s Best Night Club” award.
The restaurant also is “the place to go” for watching Carolina Panthers NFL football away games, the petition says. “They even have a special game day menu!” the petition says.
The petition notes how Paul and Johnston’s farewell message on Facebook has been shared over 1,000 times and how so many news outlets have reported on the closing.
“Please sign this petition as a chance to potentially change the mind of the landlord,” reads the petition. “‘The Rudder’ has so much heart and soul. #SaveTheRudder.”