LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – With Memorial Day weekend behind it, the village of Lake George is preparing for a busy summer season. Downtown Canada Street may be lively, Shepard Park full of visitors and the lake soon abundant with swimmers – but one longtime icon of village life will be dormant.
The Howard Johnson’s Restaurant in Lake George – the last surviving location of what was once the largest restaurant chain in America – remained closed over Memorial Day weekend. A banner on the fence overlooking Route 9 declares the restaurant up for lease, after a recent stretch of years that includes changing management, sexual abuse, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A representative from Exit Realty Empire Associates told NEWS10 on Tuesday that the property has seen interest, since going up for lease last December. Nothing has come to fruition thus far, but that doesn’t mean that the faded icon of a restaurant will stay closed through the whole season – it all depends on when the right leasee comes along. It was not clear whether its future would involve keeping the “HoJo’s” name.
In the meantime, the doors are closed on Howard Johnson’s. The restaurant’s listed phone number was disconnected when called on Tuesday. A real estate posting by Exit Realty Empire Associates prices the property at $10, a type of listing that can often represent a call for offers from interested parties.
The restaurant has seen its share of turmoil. In 2017, then-operator Jonathan LaRock was arrested on counts of sexual abuse, unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child, after a 17-year-old employee contacted police following her first – and only – day on the job. LaRock was sentenced the following year, after an investigation found that he had harassed at least 15 employees, ranging in age from as old as 43 to as young as 15.
Following LaRock’s arrest, manager Bill Sullivan stepped up. Sullivan operated the business for the rest of its run, speaking in 2018 to the passion of nostalgic regulars who remember Howard Johnson’s fondly. The property is owned by the DeSantis family, and has been since it opened in the 1950s.
The Howard Johnson’s name also extended to hotels. Some of those are still active, including one just down Canada Street from the restaurant, which has experienced a recent flood damage history that was put to rest in March.