LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - Leo’s Wings opened its Lancaster location in 1989. Three decades later, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing the owner to shut the restaurant’s doors.
People are taking this closure hard. Leo’s Wings owner was tearful when he spoke about the last 19 days this restaurant will be in business.
”This decision was so hard,” says owner Adam Reen. “It was heartbreaking.”
Leo’s Wings has been a tried and true restaurant from the day Adam Reen’s mother opened it in the same spot it sits on more than 30 years ago. Now, he had to make the tough decision to close it.
”This is my mom’s place and a little piece of her goes with it,” says Reen.
The business is closed today as Reen and Senior Project Manager Jennifer Phillips prepare for the 19 days they have left.
The same closing culprit that shut down many small businesses, hit Leo’s too - COVID-19. Leo’s Wings’ owner says the unpredictability of COVID -19 made working difficult for him and his staff.
Reen says the disease put a lot of stress on the restaurant. He says he worried about cases constantly rising and falling in Lancaster County. He felt like he never knew what was going to happen next.
Like some other businesses, Reen says regulations hurt Leo’s Wings.
Reen put together plans at the beginning of the pandemic to help offset seating capacities and dining room closures. What he did not plan for was just how long COVID-19 was going to stick around.
”With it continuing, a lot of the plans we put forth never came to light,” says Reen. “The lobby’s still going partial capacity and we just don’t have anything left to give.”
”It put a lot of stress on the restaurant and the staff,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights because I really enjoy what I do here and I love the people I work with.”
It is that same love that caused Reen to tear up thinking about the customers who have been there through it all. ”I grew up in this place. I mean this is my childhood. So I’m sorry for them but Imma miss them,” he says.
The feeling from customers is mutual.
”It’s one of the first places I ate with my wife when I first moved here,” says Bryan O’Neil.
”It’s really heartbreaking,” says Waybe Cauthen. “It’s a really sad thing right now. Imma miss them Imma miss them bad.”
O’Neil and Cauthen are Leo’s Wings regulars. Both shared a memory they say they will always keep close.
”The first time we went to Leo’s we traded a Corvette with Dale Jr,” says O’Neil.
”I met a couple guys there some older guys and started talking to them and it was pretty cool to sit at that small bar and cut up and drink beer,” says Cauthen.
The restaurant will close December 21st. This closure has no impact on the one in Lugoff. That one is set to remain open, according to Leo’s Wings owner.