Soul music legend Gladys Knight has won her bid to sever all ties to her son’s troubled chicken and waffle business, according to a recent settlement filed in Clayton County court.
Shanga Hankerson must phase out all uses of Knight’s name, likeness and memorabilia from the downtown Atlanta restaurant formerly known as Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles, the Monday agreement states. The deadline is April 26, 2017.
Once it passes, Knight can use her name on a new restaurant if she wants, which is a “distinct possibility,” her attorney Chris Bussert said Friday afternoon.
“She’s out of litigation and has her name and intellectual property back,” Bussert said. “What’s not to like about that?”
Hankerson’s attorney Dana Tucker Davis declined comment.
If Hankerson flunks another health inspection, bounces checks, gets sued, disparages Knight, pleads guilty to a felony, or breaks other terms of the agreement before the April deadline, he must remove the Empress of Soul’s intellectual property immediately.
Hankerson, 40, launched the iconic restaurant's first location with Knight's help in 1999. State tax agents raided the Peachtree location and seized all three locations last June. Hankerson was arrested on felony counts of theft by taking after racking up what investigators said was a $1 million in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest. The criminal and civil forfeiture cases are ongoing.
Witnesses told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he spent his money on marijuana and sex as the restaurant sank.
During the months-long legal battle, Hankerson said in court filings that his mother lacked the "mental capacity" to decide to take her name from the restaurant. Knight fired back that Hankerson was trying to "extort" her by damaging her reputation.
The restaurant's Cascade and Stonecrest locations have since closed, and the downtown Atlanta eatery on Peachtree Street is in disrepair. It repeatedly flunked health inspections — most recently on Feb. 13 over busted toilets and a "mold-like growth" on two boxes of cream cheese, the inspection report states.
Ten days later, state tax agents closed the restaurant and cancelled its sales tax license until “certain requirements” are met, state Department of Revenue spokesman William Gaston said in a written statement. He said privacy rules prevent him from disclosing additional details.
The eatery remains closed. Its new name: The World Famous Chicken & Waffles.