By Mike Pomranz
June 22, 2017
© John E. Kelly / Johnny Louis / Getty Images

Next time you take the midnight train to Georgia, don’t expect to hit up Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles the next day. Though the iconic Atlanta eatery is still around, it will no longer bear the famed Pips’ leader’s name – meaning that after a long legal battle, it appears Knight is finally out of the restaurant game.

Gladys Knight first got lured into the restaurant biz in the late ‘90s when her son, Shanga Hankerson, convinced her to allow him to use her name and likeness on his restaurants in exchange for monthly royalties, according to CNN. The agreement proved successful enough for Hankerson that he opened more locations, but by last year, things had turned so sour that the soul singer had to sue her own progeny to get out of her agreement and pull her name from the failing businesses.

It’s easy to see why Knight wanted to scrub her association with the brand. Hankerson was accused of milking the restaurants of over $650,000 in sales and withholding tax, which led to his arrest on felony theft charges this past June. Making matters worse, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, employees suggested Hankerson’s ill-gotten gains were going toward drugs and sex parties. (Though to be fair, where else is stolen money really supposed to go?) Still, reportedly Hankerson continued to insist that his mother had a “lack of mental capacity” to decide her name should be stripped from her own Chicken & Waffle joints.

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In the ensuing months, all but one of the Gladys Knight Chicken & Waffle locations closed, and the last remaining restaurant, which is no longer owned by her son, officially has a new name: “The World Famous Chicken & Waffles.” However, the drama isn’t entirely over. The new name has primarily appeared on official documentation, but the restaurant’s sign and website still feature the old name. Manager Tracey Caldwell confirmed with the Journal-Constitution that those things would be changed eventually.

But regardless of the name, potential patrons probably have other reasons to steer clear. Reportedly, the newly renamed location has failed four health inspections dating back to the beginning of last year. If you really want to show some love for the Empress of Soul, maybe just stay home and listen to her records instead. Personally, I think Knight Time is super underrated.

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