One of Hixson’s oldest restaurants has closed, bringing an end to a 56-year-old family-owned restaurant business that began as the Rebel Drive-In when Hixson Pike was still a two-lane road.
Karl’s restaurant just north of Northgate Mall is up for lease after owner Karl Koeninger and his wife Jimmie decided against trying to reopen the family diner after it was shut down along with other restaurants on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just felt it was time to permanently close due to the virus and the cost of food and operations going up,” said Koeninger, the son of the restaurant founder who renamed the eatery from the Rebel Drive-In to Karl and Viv’s and later just Karl’s Family Restaurant.
Koeninger, who is in his 70s, said he had been thinking about closing the restaurant for some time and with the COVID-19 shutdowns, he decided to retire and let his 17 employees file for unemployment. Karl said he had worked at the restaurant through most of his life and even once lived in a mobile home behind the restaurant when he was 17 years old before the nearby Northgate Mall was built and opened in 1972.
The 3,613-square-foot restaurant at 5100 Hixson Pike was built in 1964 as one of eight Rebel Drive-In restaurants owned by Art Koeninger, a former University of Chattanooga football lineman who played in the 1930s under the late Scrappy Moore. The Rebel name was dropped nearly four decades ago and Karl’s became the only remaining restaurant for the Koeninger family.
Karl’s restaurant was open daily from 6 a.m to 8 p.m. and was best known for its breakfasts and meat-and-three (later meat-and-two) specials and its spiritual messages displayed atop the restaurant’s sign along Hixson Pike. Karl Koeninger helped start the Gideons International Northwest Camp in Hixson and served as its chairman and was active for many years in the East Ridge Kiwanis Club.
The restaurant was built by Pete Austin and is now owned by his grandson, Thomas, who is seeking new tenants or a possible purchaser for the vacant building.
Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or at 757-6340
Source: Thanks https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/business/aroundregion/story/2020/may/19/karls-restaurant-closes-after-56-years-another-casualty-covid-19-virus/523322/