Last surviving Howard Johnson’s restaurant closes

LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. — The iconic restaurant with its iconic orange roof has closed its last location.

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The last remaining Howard Johnson’s restaurant, located in Lake George, New York, has closed and the property is up for lease, WTEN-TV reported.

The Lake George location was opened in 1953 by the DeSantis family and operated in the popular summer vacation area near the Adirondack Mountains, according to CNN. The for-lease listing mentions a price of $10 for the 7,500-square-foot property, the Times-Union of Albany reported. Low lease prices are often used in real estate to generate interest in difficult properties, according to the newspaper.

The DeSantis family still owns the property.

A representative from Exit Realty Empire Associates told WTEN on Tuesday that the property has been listed since December 2021.

The restaurant chain, known for its fried clams and ice cream sundaes, was a part of popular culture. Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick included it in a scene from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the Times-Union of Albany reported. It also received a nod in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy classic “Blazing Saddles,” with actor John Hillerman playing the “original” Howard Johnson in fictional Rock Ridge.

The longtime roadside oasis had approximately 1,000 restaurants in the 1960s and 1970s and was once America’s largest restaurant chain, according to CNN.

It became a victim of fast-food culture, as consumers chose restaurants such as McDonald’s and Burger King over “HoJo’s.” The closure in Lake George follows the shuttering of restaurants in Lake Placid, New York, in 2015, and Bangor, Maine, in 2016, the Times-Union reported.

“Lake George is officially dead,” a Howard Johnson’s fan wrote in a Facebook post, adding several pictures of the abandoned restaurant. “Cobwebs on the door. Right before Memorial Day rush up here.”

Jonathan LaRock, a former vending-machine salesman, bought the Lake George restaurant in 2015, the Times-Union reported. It closed when he was arrested and later convicted of harassing at least 15 staffers, according to the newspaper. It reopened under Bill Sullivan in 2018, WTEN reported. He kept it open pausing at times when the COVID-19 pandemic forced another temporary closure.

The brand for Howard Johnson’s hotels, motels and motor lodges, which are separate from the restaurants, is owned by the Wyndham Hotel Group, the Times-Union reported.

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