LEXINGTON, Ky. — Sethco, LLC, doing business as Two Keys Tavern, announced Friday that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Eastern District of Kentucky. The filing highlights the impact that the COVID-19 shutdown has had on independent bars and restaurants, and the efforts that many owners will have to take to protect their businesses from the effects of the pandemic.
“Our hope is that filing for bankruptcy will allow Two Keys to adapt to the new realities and resolve a long-standing dispute with our landlord,” said Seth Bennett, local entrepreneur and owner of several popular eating and drinking establishments in Kentucky, Ohio, and Florida, including Two Keys Tavern in Lexington.
“Two Keys has been operating in this location for over 66 years, and we hope that the bankruptcy filing will give us a shot at identifying a buyer who can continue to serve the Lexington and the UK community for another 66 years,” Bennett said. Bennett is confident that Two Keys Tavern possesses the infrastructure and a loyal following that will allow it to thrive in the post-COVID-19 marketplace, but firmly believes that “a good relationship with the landlord is imperative to the success of the location.”
This news comes in the wake of the pandemic related closures and after a two-year long court battle with Leonard Marshall LLC, the landlord at 333 South Limestone in Lexington, where Two Keys Tavern has been operating since 1954.
Bennett alleges that Leonard Marshall LLC reneged on its commitment to honor Sethco’s option to purchase the property in 2018, and the parties have been in court ever since. As of Monday, June 29 2020, state bars and restaurants have been allowed to reopen after more than three months of being shuttered. Leonard Marshall LLC is presently demanding the immediate payment of rents that accrued during the shutdown — a challenge given the many restrictions that have been imposed on eating and drinking establishments.
Bennett believes that the landlord’s latest salvo is an attempt to gain an advantage in the ongoing litigation. As for the future, Bennett wants to assure his customers and staff that “Two Keys Tavern will either continue to operate in its current location, or move to a new home nearby.”