Parkette Drive-In closure leaves employees, customers devastated

According to family member Bryan Tipton, the restaurant's last night was Tuesday

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – An iconic restaurant in Lexington, closing its’ doors for the final time Tuesday night. As news circulated, customers and about two dozen employees were left in shock.

The “Parkette Drive-In” on New Circle had been open since 19-51. It served fried chicken, poor boy sandwiches, seafood, and shakes.

The news was so fresh, some employees showed up ready to work on Wednesday.

“I built that bond with everybody,” said employee Miguel Hernandez. “That’s something I wasn’t looking forward to losing. Everybody over here is a family.”

Another employee, Billie Crowe, has worked at the Parkette for 13 years.

“I’m gonna miss this place so much,” said Crowe. “And my customers, I love all my customers.”

Crowe’s father, Randy Kaplan, has been co-owner of the restaurant during that time. He said he and his family loved the community and customers.

“But running Parkette as a business is very difficult,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan blames the pandemic and soaring gas prices, saying the restaurant had only begun picking up again in June.

“I’ve not had a complete order since march of 2020,” said Kaplan. “I could not get supplies. I was going all over the city, all over the internet trying to get supplies for the last 22 months.”

Kaplan said his brother, another co-owner, wanted to go in a different direction. That’s when plans to renegotiate the restaurant’s lease back to the original owners began. Kaplan says he was under the impression the restaurant would operate as normal and that he would stay on as an operating manager until the family got the news Tuesday that the restaurant would not be reopening, costing about 24 employees their jobs.

“We’re devastated,” said Kaplan. “They came in last night after we closed normal business and closed the business.”

Kaplan had also been told the property needed some improvements. He didn’t have the funds to keep the property up or fix it the way he wanted it look. He said they considered other options.

Bryan Tipton is the son in law of Joe Smiley, the restaurant’s founder, who passed away in 2001.  Tipton spoke with ABC 36 about the lead up to the closure.

“It was not a knee-jerk reaction. There was a lot of though put into it over a month now,” said Tipton.

Tipton said the Kaplans had come to them about getting out of the lease early. The family agreed to let that happen.

While the future of the property and building is unclear, Crowe says it’s a huge loss for the community and the employees.

“They’re like family to us. We love them. They’re what made this place go.”


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