Sonic Closes After Lease Negotiations Fail

April 28, 2018

WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The Sonic Drive-In restaurant near the Wyoming Valley Mall was forced to close after the new owner could not come to a lease agreement with the mall owner that owns the land, according to the former Sonic owners.

Sean Kelly and Jody McGrail of NEPA Burgers, who owned the restaurant, said they sold it and another Sonic in Hazleton to Qual-Fresh, a Sonic franchisee with locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

They said after the acquisition, Qual-Fresh could not come to a lease agreement with Wyoming Valley Mall owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.

“Over the last few months, the new owners have worked diligently with PREIT on an assignment of lease for the Wyoming Valley Mall location,” McGrail said. “It was my understanding that they had an agreement in place which would have kept this location open.”

Amanda Hoprich, marketing director for the Wyoming Valley Mall, said PREIT officials are still trying to work toward an agreement with Qual-Fresh.

Attempts to reach Nolan Aspell of Qual-Fresh were not immediately successful.

The Sonic restaurant at 755 Kidder St. closed abruptly on Tuesday and its website says it is “temporarily closed.”

Barriers prevent people from entering the restaurant that has 21 drive-in stalls and patio seats.

The Sonic Drive-In in Hazleton remains open.

Kelly and McGrail own another Sonic in Scranton.

McGrail said they sold the Sonic restaurants in Wilkes-Barre Twp. and Hazleton because they have been busy with the Scranton Sonic as well as their other company, Integrated Marketing Solutions in Scranton.


“It was just not cost-effective for us to spend the amount of time it was taking,” McGrail said. “It was strictly a business decision.”

They did not disclose the purchase price for the restaurants in Wilkes-Barre Twp. and Hazleton.

Qual-Fresh owns Sonic Drive-In restaurants in Allentown and Bartonsville as well as several others in New Jersey.

Kelly and McGrail opened the Sonic Drive-In in Wilkes-Barre Twp. in 2009 on a site that formerly housed Kentucky Fried Chicken and previously Hardee’s.

It combined 1950s style fast-food drive-ins with modern flair. Its menu featured cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, breakfast burritos, tater tots, fries, ice cream sundaes and shakes.

Other big closures soon will occur nearby in the Wyoming Valley Mall, including the Bon-Ton which is holding going-out-of-business sales.

Sears, the second of four anchor stores in the mall, will close in mid-July. The Sears Auto Center will close in mid-May. A liquidation sale began Friday.

Also on Kidder Street, another iconic retail chain Toys R Us is closing and holding going-out-of-business sales. The nearby Babies R Us in Wilkes-Barre Twp. is closing as well and holding sales.

Amid all the closings, some new developments have come to the area as well.

Tuesday Morning, a chain retailer with a with a discounted selection of brand-name home furnishings, small appliances and gifts, recently opened near Target in Wilkes-Barre Twp.

An IHOP restaurant will open in May at 770 Kidder St. in Wilkes-Barre, according to an official from Atlanta, Georgia-based Dimension Development Partners, which is developing the site.

IHOP, officially known as the International House of Pancakes, is a multinational pancake house and diner-style table service restaurant chain that specializes in breakfast foods.

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570-821-2115, @CVAllabaugh