CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lines at the door. A spinning sign. PBR at the bar. Tattoos. A band outside. This is what the Penguin Drive-In used to look like.
Now, the parking lot is empty, save for reporters and the occasional gawkers. The door is locked. The phone's disconnected. Even the guys who wanted to clean the beer lines couldn't get in this week.
The Penguin Drive-In has been closed for several days, and as of Monday the landlord has filed an eviction against the restaurant. In that notice, the landlord said the power's been cut off and that the business no longer appears to be in operation. The case will be in court August 14th. An attorney for the landlord had no comment. NBC Charlotte was unable to speak with Lisa Ballentine, who did leave a message saying she wanted to talk about the Penguin. Earlier this week, Ballentine told NBC Charlotte that the restaurant would reopen Wednesday afternoon, although a sign posted on the door late Wednesday said the restaurant would open on Thursday.
This, is just the latest in a Plaza Midwood soap opera that's lasted four years. In 2010, the guys who helped turn the place around didn't have their lease renewed by the Ballentine family, which owned the building at the time, as well as the Penguin name and logo. After the family took control of the restaurant again, a plan to franchise the Penguin fell through. The Ballentine family no longer owns the building-- they rent it. And in 2013, The Penguin filed for bankruptcy. That case was dismissed.
"This is a small neighborhood, and in order to have a successful business in Plaza Midwood, you have to have the support of the neighborhood," says Heather Lamparter, who works in Plaza-Midwood and used to work at the Penguin. "After the ownership change, the neighborhood didn't support it."
The guys who turned around the Penguin left to run The Diamond and Pinky's. Plaza Midwood's been changing as well, says Lamparter. "There's no element of danger here anymore," she says. "People used to think this was a bad neighborhood and that's why they didn't come in here, but it was an awesome neighborhood. A business came in here and made it cool and now it's kind of open for everybody."
In fact, the only place here that's not open for everybody, is the Penguin.