A pair of full-sized, replica World War II fighter planes still stand guard outside the 57th Fighter Group Restaurant site at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, and olive 1940s military trucks and Jeeps dot the lawn.
But the future is up in the air for the 25-year-old faux Normandy chateau that served as a meeting place for reunions, big band dances and even a few weddings before abruptly closing its doors on New Year's Day.
"Business was good and the restaurant was doing well," said Tim Donchevsky, maintenance supervisor for the last 10 years at the World War II-themed restaurant. "Our Sunday brunch was busier than ever. The announcement caught everyone completely by surprise."
David Tallichet, a World War-II B-17 bomber pilot and founder of California-based Specialty Restaurants Corp., owner of the 57th Fighter Group, did not return telephone calls. Tallichet, who is in his mid-80s, used to operate more than 80 theme restaurants around the country, but a company official said that number has been cut to 26.
Pat Epps, owner of Epps Aviation, an aircraft sales, service and charter firm at the airport, said he has made an offer to buy the lease from Tallichet and take over the 14 years remaining. But Epps said he hasn't decided what should replace it.
"I've made an offer," he said. "We're waiting to see if DeKalb County will transfer the lease. But everything's unsettled at the moment."
DeKalb-Peachtree Airport owns the land where the restaurant sits, and any changes or reassignment of the lease require county approval. Tallichet has asked the county to reassign the lease to Epps, but no one has asked for any changes in the terms of the lease.
The land the restaurant occupies adjoins a taxiway and would seem like a desirable location for an aviation business at the busy corporate airport.
Black-and-white photos and hand-drawn military maps cover the interior walls of the restaurant, as they have for years. A P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt sit atop poles outside along with gun turrets and sandbags.
Airport Director Lee Remmel said the restaurant is current on lease payments that total $40,000 a year, and the existing terms will remain in effect if the lease is transferred.
"Regardless of who picks up the lease, the obligations are the same," Remmel said. "If changes are proposed, the assignee would have to come back to DeKalb County to have those changes approved. The county is the ultimate decider of the use of the property."
The restaurant was always known more for its ambience and runway views than its food. The patio offered up-close airplane viewing, and patrons gathered outside on sunny Sunday mornings for champagne brunch.
Jim Squire, chairman emeritus of the Georgia Restaurant Association, said theme restaurants in general are doing well, but 57th Fighter Group had not done much to keep its profile high.
"The ESPN Zone, Bahama Breeze, Cheeseburger in Paradise are all jamming," he said.
"But I can't remember the last time I saw the 57th Fighter Group restaurant do a major promotion. You've got to maintain your relevance or you're quickly forgotten," he added.
As Donchevsky turned away visitors outside the restaurant's locked gate recently, he said former patrons are "tore up" by the surprise closure.
"When Mister Tallichet opened this restaurant, he flew a B-17 here and parked it out front --- and the crowds were so big you couldn't find a place to park," he said. "He had a good idea, and I give him a lot of credit for making it work. I just wish it could have kept on going."
News stories provided by third parties are not edited by "Site Publication" staff. For suggestions and comments, please click the Contact link at the bottom of this page.
Epps Aviation at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) in Atlanta has obtained certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to maintain all European Union registered aircraft.
The agreement calls for the teardown and inspection of an improved design area of the U.S. military’s largest cargo aircraft, the C-5 Galaxy.
This certification allows Epps Aviation access to all of the equipment and materials needed to perform nondestructive testing on all models of Cessna Citation aircraft. The authorized tests include...
The award represents outstanding levels of sales performance, technical expertise and customer service that distinguishes Epps among other Garmin distributors.