Gone — Another iconic NJ diner closes
😟 The famed Red Lion Diner has closed
😠 Owners blame COVID-19 restrictions
❓ What will open on the site?
Gov. Phil Murphy's pandemic shutdowns have claimed another New Jersey Icon.
The famed Red Lion Diner in Southampton has permanently closed.
A message on the diner's Facebook page reads, "With a heavy heart we must inform you that the Red Lion Diner has sold. We will not be opening again."
Owner Efthimios “Paul” Tsiknakis confirmed that he has sold the property to A&B Development Group. A&B plans to tear down the Red Lion and build a super Wawa on the site.
Red Lion was a place to stop on long drives
The Red Lion Diner was popular with local residents and offered a diverse menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
However, for generations of New Jersey residents it was a place to stop and stretch your legs and grab a bite on a drive to Atlantic City or to the Jersey Shore.
Located at the Red Lion Circle where Route 206 and Route 70 meet, it was about 50 miles from Ocean City.
Red Lion owner blames COVID
The message on Facebook stated the decision to close was "difficult" but in the end, "we chose what was best for our families."
Tsiknakis told the Courier Post he never had any intention of selling. He and his family acquired Red Lion about five years ago. The COVID hit.
"COVID changed a lot of things for a lot of restaurants," Tsiknakis told the Post. During the pandemic, the restaurant was forced to close.
He said it was the reason he even considered entertaining an offer from a developer.
There was a plan to keep the Red Lion going
Initially, Tsiknakis says his plan was to build a new Red Lion Diner on the site, with the developer as a partner.
COVID changed that, too.
Supply chain issues and rising costs of raw materials due to the pandemic have hit the construction industry very hard in New Jersey.
When Tsiknakis saw the cost of his plan for a new diner skyrocket, it was no longer an option.
He told the Post it simple wasn't "financially feasible to rebuild the diner."
One piece of the diner will live on
One of the things that made the Red Lion Diner an iconic landmark was the giant stone lion statue in front of the building.
Countless kids, families and visitors have had their pictures taken in front of the lion, which is named Leo.
Leo will live on, but not at his current site.
Tsiknakis says the owners of Red Lion Metals has purchased the statue, and will eventually move him to a new home just down the street.
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