Gran Ranchero Court Street

A man painting artwork on the front door of what will soon be a Gran Ranchero location on Court Street. Photo by Ben Peters.

A second Gran Ranchero restaurant is in development in Uptown Athens to compliment its East State Street location.

The Mexican restaurant’s new sit-down location, first reported on by OU student news organization The New Political, is slated to open in the coming months where China King once stood at 21 S. Court St., Abel Ortiz, manager of the East State Street location, told The Athens NEWS.

Athens Code Enforcement said Monday morning that it has not received any permits from Gran Ranchero related to the Court Street location. But the Uptown storefront has been painted over with Mexican-style artwork and a parking meter in front of the location was covered Monday with a plastic bag designating the space reserved for a dumpster maintained by Gran Ranchero.

It’s unclear the status of China King in the Mexican restaurant’s expansion. While China King has been closed for some time, its Court Street address is still classified as active under the ownership of Shao Qing OU, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s business database. China King’s phone number listed on Google is no longer active.

Athens landlord David E. Full, proprietor of Full Shops Inc., owns the building that housed China King, according to the office of Athens County Auditor Jill A. Thompson.Full, who also owns the building that housed the now-defunct Lady B’s Fried Chicken at 19 S. Court St., in 2019 filed a lawsuit against that restaurant after it shuttered, alleging that it broke the terms of its lease by vacating the premises before a mutually agreed upon date, The NEWS previously reported.

The lease — signed by Rutter Hospitality, owner of Lady B’s — granted Full’s business a security interest on all goods, wares, equipment, fixtures, furniture and other personal property located inside the building.

Rutter Hospitality vacated the building and removed most of those items without first obtaining permission from Full Shops, according to the lawsuit. The suit also alleged that Rutter Hospitality damaged the building and failed to pay rent, utilities and insurance, while neglecting to remove waste and trash from the premises. In 2012, Full was sued for locking the owner of Tropical Tan, Pam Hines, out of the property after Hines failed to pay rent on time.

Hines’ attorney at the time argued in court that Full may have barred Hines from her business located at 21-1/2 S. Court St. because she was reportedly hurting the profitability of Outer Glow, a now-defunct rival tanning salon that rented one of Full’s nearby commercial properties at 14 S. Court St., The NEWS previously reported.

The NEWS couldn’t locate any documents in The Athens County Court of Common Pleas that indicate a legal dispute between Full and China King.

Several Uptown restaurants and business have shuttered in recent years, largely because of a lack of activity during the summer months when Ohio University students aren’t in town.

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