After 21 years in business, Perkins Family Restaurant on Richmond Road closed Sunday, ending a legal battle with property owners.
The news came abruptly to employees who did not know that Sunday would be the restaurant’s last business day until about 2 p.m., longtime manager David Mullins said.
"The first we knew about it was when they showed up," he said, pointing to employees from a Cincinnati auction company who were loading booths and tables into trucks.
Owner Mark Perkins had talked with employees one-on-one about the closing, but Mullins said he could not say what they talked about.
A brief news release issued by the restaurant said Perkins chose to close after settling its legal battle with property owner Lexington Mall Properties Inc.
"Perkins restaurant and its owner, Mark Perkins, and Lexington Mall Properties Inc., landlord of Perkins restaurant, have agreed to a confidential settlement of all pending litigation, which is mutually satisfactory to both parties," the release stated.
Mark Perkins could not be reached for comment.
The 24-hour eatery was involved in a lawsuit with Lexington Mall Properties Inc., which owns the long-dormant Lexington Mall property on which Perkins sits.
Lexington Mall Properties Inc. is headed by officials from Southland Christian Church. The church bought the property in 2010 to use as the site of a satellite campus, which is under construction.
Chris Hahn, lead executive pastor at Southland, declined to comment, except to say the confidential agreement settled "all outstanding issues between the parties to the satisfaction of Mark Perkins and LMPI."
Perkins had been represented in the lawsuits by the late Gatewood Galbraith, a well-known Lexington attorney and perennial gubernatorial candidate. Galbraith died Jan. 4 after developing pneumonia that was complicated by chronic emphysema.
In the lawsuit filed in October, Lexington Mall Properties contended that Perkins’ lease lapsed on May 31, 2011, and that Mark Perkins should pay double his normal rent for each month he has stayed past the lease’s expiration. The company sought the immediate surrender of Perkins’ restaurant.
Perkins said in a counter claim that the lease had not lapsed. The filing said Perkins had reached an agreement with Saul Holdings Inc., the former owner of the mall property, before it was sold to Southland in 2010. He made clear to church leaders his intention to renew his lease after they bought the property, according to the lawsuit.
Perkins’ lawsuit alleged that Lexington Mall Properties had taken unscrupulous steps to drive the 24-hour diner out of business, including turning off or reducing the brightness of lights on the property, letting brush become overgrown and generally keeping the property "in a dirty and unsanitary condition."
"It’s just some skullduggery that they’re trying to pull," Galbraith said last year in a Herald-Leader article about the lawsuits.
Mullins, the manager, said he didn’t know much about the litigation, but he didn’t think the restaurant had hired another attorney after Galbraith’s death.
Mullins said he had worked at the restaurant, a staple on Lexington’s Richmond Road corridor, for about as long as it had been in business. He said he didn’t know what the future held for him."I have no clue yet," he said. "I am as surprised as anyone else."