Restaurants

Final Howard Johnson’s restaurant shuts down

The Quincy-born chain once dominated American culture.

The Lake George Howard Johnson's restaurant appears to be closed for good. Mike Groll/AP Photo

The last Howard Johnson’s restaurant in America appears to be closed for good. 

The location, in Lake George, New York, was the last vestige of a once-massive restaurant chain. But the eatery did not open for Memorial Day weekend, and a banner out front advertised that the building was available to lease, the local ABC affiliate reported

The chain originated in Quincy, but spread from coast to coast after World War II. At one point, almost 1,000 iconic HoJo’s orange rooftops dotted the country. It once claimed to be America’s largest restaurant chain. 

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But as new fast-food empires took business, the HoJo’s brand suffered. In 1985, Marriot bought the hotel portion of Howard Johnson’s business, separating it from the franchised restaurants. The final three restaurant locations were in Lake George, Lake Placid, New York, and Bangor, Maine. The Lake Placid location closed in 2015 and the Bangor location closed in 2016, the Albany Times-Union reported

The 7,500 square-foot Howard Johnson’s in Lake George was last open in March, a local fan wrote in a Facebook group dedicated to the brand. An online listing advertises the property for $10. Extremely low lease prices are usually used to generate interest in difficult properties, according to the Times-Union.

There has been some interest in the property, the ABC affiliate reported, but no final decisions have been made. 

The Lake George HoJo’s has faced controversy in recent years. In 2017, owner Jonathan LaRock was arrested on charges of sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment, and endangering the welfare of a child, the ABC affiliate reported.

A 17-year-old girl contacted police, alleging that LaRock inappropriately touched and kissed her on her first day as an employee, according to the station. A subsequent investigation found that the restaurateur sexually harassed 15 female employees over the years, ranging in age from 14 to 43 years old, according to the local CBS station.

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A former manager became the new owner after LaRock’s arrest, and kept the business running for the past couple of years. 

The location had been open for almost 70 years, according to the Times-Union

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