Anyone in search of fried chicken will no longer be able to go to Lady B’s Fried Chicken for a late-night snack.
Lady B’s Fried Chicken, 19 S. Court St., closed during the first week of May, leaving behind little items inside the restaurant. On May 7, Full Shops, Inc. filed a civil lawsuit against Rutter Hospitality LLC, the parent company of Lady B’s.
Nearly four and a half years of rent, utilities and insurance is requested to be paid to Full Shops because Rutter Hospitality closed the business after about six months into the lease, according to a complaint filed in the Athens County Common Pleas Court by Full Shops Inc.
Rutter Hospitality is the parent company of the now-closed Lady B’s Fried Chicken, OMG! Rotisserie on 139 Columbus Road, the OMG! Rotisserie in Chillicothe and The Madison on Paint in Chillicothe. It is made up of Sheldon Andrus and his wife Bethany, along with her parents, Jimmy and Marla Rutter.
Full Shops Inc. has requested a temporary restraining order from the premises of the location of Lady B’s.
In November 2017, Rutter Hospitality and Full Shops entered a 5 1/2 year lease agreement for the property of 19 S. Court St. Around May 3, they closed the business and vacated, the complaint states.
The complaint states that Rutter Hospitality breached a commercial lease for the property that housed Lady B’s Fried Chicken. They also violated the lease by moving items from the store on May 3 without asking the owners of the building first, as some of this was personal property that was a security interest.
Rutter Hospitality also physically damaged the property in the process of vacating the building, according to the complaint. The complaint alleges that they removed goods, wares, equipment, fixtures, furniture and other personal property.
The complaint also states that Rutter Hospitality failed to pay rent, utilities, insurance and other “obligations of the Tenant.”
Full Shops is seeking at least $25,000 in punitive damages against Rutter Hospitality, and that all goods taken from 19 S. Court St. are returned, as well as attorneys’ fees, costs and interest and other relief deemed equitable by the judge.
Trevor Zender worked at Lady B’s from the end of March through April. He said that he wasn’t told that Lady B’s would be closing but saw that the business structure was “not ideal” through several cleanliness issues and a lack of structure.
He said he was told about times of people finding rat feces in the corner of the building.
“I don’t think they kept up to date on their health code violations,” Zender said. “That’s me basing my previous knowledge from working in the food industry.”
During the pre-licensing inspection on Jan. 12, 2018, which was the time that 19 S. Court St. was Omg! Rotisserie’s second location, there were no violations in health codes, according to records from the Athens City-County Health Department.
There were three non-critical violations on the property during the standard along with a 30 day inspection conducted on Feb. 9, 2018. These violations were that a box of carryout containers was stored directly on the floor of the basement, non-food contact surfaces were dirty and the plumbing system was not properly maintained.
The Athens City-County Health Department conducted another inspection on Sept. 12, 2018, again before the transition to Lady B’s. It found one critical violation and four non-critical. There was a presence of live insects, such as flies and fruit flies, on the property.
The health department also found there to be food items stored directly on the floor in the walk-in cooler and basement dry storage and on the kitchen floor. The facility and, specifically waste receptacles, were found to not be cleaned or maintained, according to health department records.
The health department also observed “damaged, spoiled, and/or recalled products not segregated from food, equipment, utensils, linens, and single-service and single-use articles.” They observed spoiled sweet potatoes in the basement, which was corrected during the inspection.
Another inspection on Feb. 14 showed a repeat violation of improper food storage and lack of cleanliness. The department also observed a Lowe’s bucket being used to store raw chicken. There was also another violation of unsmooth flooring.
Zender said the cleanliness was not great.
“The general back area where we walked around was very slick because of the oils we cooked it,” Zender said. “It got to the point where I felt like we were walking around on dish soap. They never took preventative measures to put down non-stick mats. There were times where the dish aprons were worn to the point where the straps weren’t holding on anymore.”
He said that management kept the workers’ tips, and he felt overworked often during night shifts because the team had to prep for the next day because the day shift was not held to the same standards.
“They had a big issue with worker turnover. There were a lot of times when they needed more people than what they had,” Zender, an incoming senior studying engineering technology and management, said. “I stayed there because I needed the money, and in all honesty I figured I would finish out the year there and stick it out.”
Both Full Shops Inc. and Rutter Hospitality did not reply after multiple attempts for comment.
Emily O’Flynn was one of the two OU students who won free food for a year from Lady B’s. She wasn’t told Lady B’s would be closing or how it would affect her free food.
She said she can receive free food until July 1, 2019, but she didn’t expect to use it this summer because she graduated.
She said she used the deal about five to six times each month on herself and her friends.
“I loved their chicken. Their fries are great, too,” O’Flynn said. “The fact that it was free made me want to go more.”
Autumn Powell, an incoming senior studying communications studies, said she ate at Lady B’s a lot, from when it opened to before she left Athens for summer break.
“I like their food, it’s Cane’s style and felt home-y,” Powell said. “I am sad that it’s closing, but unfortunately I’m not surprised.”