The Red Lion Diner, a longtime fixture in Southampton, New Jersey, has been sold, leaving customers surprised and saddened. Paul Tsiknakis, the owner, reflected on the bittersweet moment as he cleaned and packed away the restaurant’s belongings. The restaurant, once full of conversation, is now empty and closed.
Tsiknakis took over the Red Lion Diner five and a half years ago, but its history goes back five decades. Located on the roundabout at Routes 206 and 70, the restaurant was a local landmark and a popular stop for travelers heading down the coast. Tsiknakis expressed gratitude for the loyal staff and customer base, but ultimately the restaurant fell victim to the impact of COVID-19.
During the height of the pandemic, Tsiknakis contracted with a builder, intending to build a new diner. However, rising construction costs and interest derailed his plans. Despite initially planning to keep the restaurant open for 30 days to gradually empty it out, Tsiknakis was informed by lawyers that this was not feasible, resulting in the sudden closure.
Customers reminisced about their fond memories at the Red Lion Diner, expressing their disappointment at its closure. Tsiknakis revealed plans to build a proposed Vava on the site, but ensured that some of the restaurant’s history would be preserved. One notable piece, a £10,000 marble lion named Leo, which once graced the front of the restaurant, was sold to a local metal company. Proceeds from sales were donated to the United Soldiers Fund, allowing Leo’s legacy to live on in the city.