After wild saga, old Gladys Knight’s Chicken & Waffles is boarded up

About a year after the owner of Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles was arrested on felony theft charges, the downtown Atlanta restaurant sits boarded up, with trash in its doorway.

It’s unclear whether the restaurant is permanently closed; a call to owner Shanga Hankerson, the legendary singer’s son, was not returned immediately Friday.

The original Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles eatery opened in 1997 at 618 Ponce de Leon Ave., in Midtown. The opening was attended by then-Mayor Bill Campbell and R&B stars Aliyah and Ginuwine.

It took hold as one of the city’s best-loved chains for the ensuing two decades.

But in 2016, it began a fall marked by fighting in the family, accusations of theft, worker complaints and even rumors of sex parties.

Here’s an approximate timeline of the trouble:

February 2016: The Peachtree Street location, one of three around metro Atlanta, fails a health inspection with a score of 56 after Fulton County inspectors found 15 violations.

June 21, 2016: The Georgia Department of Revenue shuts down all three locations due to theft charges against Hankerson. Hankerson is accused of taking  $650,000 in state sales and withholding taxes, which after penalties and interest totals more than $1 million.

June 22, 2016: Hankerson is released on $20,000 bond from Clayton County jail. Knight begins to distance herself.

June 24, 2016: The restaurants reopen.

July 2016: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Hankerson's employees told investigators he used the money for sex parties and marijuana.

Aug. 21, 2016: The Lithonia location is closed again, seemingly for good. (The eateries had been operating under state receivership, and the receiver says it isn't supporting itself.)

Aug. 26, 2016: Gladys Knight, an Atlanta native, files suit to take her name off the restaurant, saying it's hurting her reputation.

September 2016: Hankerson responds to Knight's suit by saying her "lack of mental capacity" bars her from removing her name. She then accuses her son of trying to "extort" and "blackmail" her by threatening to falsely claim she has dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

Oct. 6, 2016:  The Peachtreet Street location fails a surprise health inspection, scoring a 44 after dead and live roaches were seen in the kitchen. The location voluntarily closes.

Oct. 10, 2016: A theft of an estimated $9,000 from the safe of the Peachtree Street location is reported, but no locks are broken, a video camera at the business isn't operating and there is no burglar alarm.

Oct. 20, 2016: The AJC reports that a consultant concluded the owner should consider closing permanently because of the restaurants' "grave" financial position and "unappealing" conditions. At some point this month, the Cascade area location closes.

Nov. 3, 2016: The last remaining restaurant flunks a third inspection after an inspector observed dead roaches.

Nov. 17, 2016: The restaurant passes an inspection with a B.

Feb. 13, 2017: A worker tells the AJC the restaurant is now called The World Famous Chicken & Waffles, but no signage or branding has visibly changed.

Feb. 23, 2017: The DOR shuts down the restaurant over tax issues.

March 3, 2017: The AJC reports Knight won her bid to sever ties to the business; Hankerson must phase out all uses of Knight's name, likeness and memorabilia by April 26, 2017.

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Additional reporting by AJC staff writer Willoughby Mariano and Ligaya Figueras.