It seems no College Park business — even one with a reputation for entertaining late-night eating experience — is safe from the brutal pattern of downtown turnover.
Cluck-U Chicken has been a Route 1 staple since 1990, city records show, but the once-bustling restaurant is now empty because managers have been unable to make full rental payments for almost six months, according to property owners.
John Kempf, a property manager with Curtis Management — the company that owns the strip from Cluck-U to Bagel Place — said the eviction date was Oct. 22, but when officials arrived at about 8 a.m. that day, they found an already-vacant space and a broken door.
"I don't have any idea [why the door was damaged," Kempf said. "Maybe just to make the entrance bigger to move things out from the inside."
While many other chicken establishments, including Wing Zone and Wata-Wing, folded after short-lived runs, Cluck-U Chicken has been a downtown mainstay for two decades — a significant amount of time by College Park's standards and long enough to have seen many classes of students come and go.
Many said they were disappointed to bid goodbye to the restaurant that routinely offered free chicken coupons and provided a guaranteed spot to catch their breath after a night out. Store manager Lee Majors — better known to students as "Cluck-U-Pac" for his uncanny resemblance to the 1990s rap icon — also sold or handed out his demo CDs to customers.
"It's kinda sad," said senior journalism major Greg Jubb. "It was one of those staple late-night restaurants you went to if you were still up and about at 3 a.m."
"I've never really eaten there sober," junior economics major Chris Conway added. "It's good late-night food."
But a change in management at the beginning of this year spawned financial issues. Managers could not be reached for comment.
"Once it was subleased to the new management, that's when problems started," Kempf said.
Curtis Management warned Cluck-U several times over the past five or six months that it was on the verge of being evicted, Kempf said, but the problem wasn't fixed.
"We did the right steps of what we were supposed to do as the owners," he said.
Several students said they weren't shocked to see the downtown restaurant shuttered.
"I'm not surprised; it looks like it's poorly maintained," Jubb said. "I wouldn't call it the cleanest of establishments."
Officials from Burnett Builders and Developers — a company contracted by Curtis Management to clean the property — unearthed the restaurant's last chicken meal yesterday under where the oven used to be and is now dealing with a different sort of occupant.
"This place is infested with roaches," Burnett said. "They're all over the place."
Kempf said they are gutting the space to make it more appealing for a future tenant to rent.
"We don't have anybody set to go in there ... we're just trying to get the place cleaned up to a white shell," he said. "It's vacant, and we're looking for a tenant."
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