A Cincinnati-area favorite is gone, as the last two Golden Corral restaurants in Northern Kentucky shut their doors this past week.
For customers, it's a loss not just of a restaurant but a whole way of dining.
Richard Atchley has been dining at the Golden Corral every week for a decade, until this week.
"It says we are closed at this Ft Wright location, go to Florence," he said, reading a sign on the door. "But I went to Florence, and they are shut down, too."
He says employees seemed to have no idea it was coming, as he chatted with them just a week ago.
"Then we saw a sign saying 'We are no longer in business.' And I said what? It just happened like that!"
But the Ft. Wright and Florence buffet restaurants are now locked tight.
Atchley says it's like losing a family member.
"We come here all the time, once a week. We love Golden Corral. It's one of our favorite places. We knew the servers, we knew the management, they all knew us."
Pandemic hits buffet lines hard
After shutting down in March, along with most other restaurants offering in-person dining, the Golden Corral was able to reopen over the summer.
But with one big difference: no more endless buffet. CDC pandemic guidelines prohibit buffet lines, to slow the spread of COVID.
"You would sit down and you would tell them what you want, and they would bring the food to you, and they did that for a while," he said.
But with no endless-buffet line, and no outdoor dining option, Atchley says he noticed business was off sharply.
The chain's website shows the nearest locations still open now are in Lexington, Kentucky, and Richmond, Indiana, though there is no guarantee they will be open long.
News reports list Corral closings all over the country in this pandemic year.
We called and emailed the restaurants' corporate headquarters in North Carolina, but did not hear back. A phone recording simply told us to leave a message at the tone.
Fans like Richard Atchley worry it will never come back.
"We're not going to be able to find all-you-can-eat places anymore. They are all shut down," he said.
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