The Meadville Kentucky Fried Chicken is expected to reopen some time in September – roughly six months after an accidental fire damaged the popular Vernon Township restaurant on March 27th.
“The cause of the fire was an open fryer that hadn't been turned off. The inspectors came with us, and they told us that we would have to get a permit before we could open up.”
Owner Art Cocolin says even though damage was minimal, he was told he needed to bring the structure into compliance with regulations from government agencies including OSHA and the DEP before he could reopen,
“We even put in this permit what equipment we would put back in there and how much energy they used.”
Other requirements included handicapped restroom facilities upgrades and revamped electrical wiring.
After drafting plans with an architect and making the necessary adjustments, Cocolin says he was finally able to obtain that permit last week. His contractor says he anticipates an opening date some time in September, Cocolin says.
As for his 22 employees, most signed up for unemployment compensation. Some got other jobs.
“And I know that some of them that got other jobs said they can’t wait for us to open because they want to go back to work for us.”
And even though his insurance has carried him through the crisis, the 87-year-old Cocolin says he hasn’t known what to do with himself these days.
“The only thing is, I’m going stir crazy. I have no place to go after I leave the house.”
Cocolin blames government red tape for the long delay.
“Government regulations. Not political – no matter what party you’ve got in there, it’s too many government regulations.”
In the meantime, Cocolin says he has been able to use his catering truck, which has helped him take care of quite a few orders including a picnic at the Crawford County Fairgrounds last Saturday that served some 3-thousand people.
It’s still too early to pin down a specific date, but for Cocolin, the grand reopening can’t come soon enough.
“I can’t wait, because I’m hungry.”
Cocolin says the new KFC will have an upgraded drive-through, expanded seating, and a variety of other improvements:
“We’re not even going to be able to recognize it.”
And that’s news that can only be described as finger-lickin' good.