CUYAHOGA FALLS: The State Road KFC in the Falls is closed, and several more in the Akron area will also close soon as the result of a settlement between KFC Corp. and a franchise owner.
Other cities slated to lose the familiar fast-food chicken restaurant include Wadsworth and Stow. Locations on South Arlington and West Market streets in Akron will close as well.
Akron’s South Main Street store and one in Barberton already have closed.
The restaurants are casualties in a court fight between KFC Corp. and Columbus-based Rao’s Hospitality and its president, Gita Rao. The Akron-area restaurants, along with some in Pennsylvania, were purchased by Rao in February 2007.
In 2010, KFC sued Rao’s Hospitality, Gita Rao and Ganesh Rao Ponneri, alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract. KFC said the franchise failed to pay about $175,000 in royalties and advertising fees.
Under the terms of an earlier settlement, the franchisee was permitted to keep the stores open until Nov. 22, 2011, while a new buyer was sought.
A buyer wasn’t found, and the day the franchisee was to close the stores, Rao’s Hospitality filed for bankruptcy protection.
An attorney representing Rao’s Hospitality and Gita Rao asked the judge not to enforce the settlement agreement until the bankruptcy case was resolved. A hearing was set for March 19.
Meanwhile, the Falls Fire Department closed the State Road store on Dec. 11 because of a carbon monoxide leak.
The Akron Health Department conducted an inspection with the fire department and found several violations, including a leaky roof and grease dripping through holes in the floor into the basement. Records show inspectors also found grease caked on outlets.
Repairs were made, and the Falls restaurant reopened in February.
On March 30, Rao’s Hospitality and KFC Corp. filed a motion for a settlement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbus. The restaurants were ordered closed by midnight May 31.
The KFC sign is already gone from the State Road restaurant. The Arlington Road, Wadsworth and Cuyahoga Falls locations have been removed from the KFC website store locator.
Rao Hospitality did not return calls seeking comment.
KFC public relations representative Rick Maynard said he could not say whether KFC would return to the area.
“Unfortunately, the franchisee filed for bankruptcy and closed the stores in your area,” Maynard said by email. “We greatly appreciate the patronage of the customers of those locations and encourage them to visit other nearby KFCs, and to stop by KFC when traveling.”
Gina Mace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.