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Cootie Brownas may reopen in Kingsport

Times-News Staff • Nov 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Mayor Dennis Phillips said he wants everybody to know Cootie Brown’s restaurant didn’t close last month for lack of business. During a meeting Tuesday of the Kingsport Economic Development Board, Phillips said the reason for the closing “by order can’t be discussed” but that the eatery was doing well and making money.

Owners Tony and Christina Vella, who opened the 7,000-square-foot restaurant in February 2006, closed it Oct. 19. The Vellas said there was no lawsuit involved and an increase in rent was not the reason. They said they could not give details of why they closed but hoped to reopen someday in Kingsport. “The business was there. You can’t talk about, can’t tell what happened,” Phillips said.

KEDB Chairman Larry Estepp said it boiled down to the property lease being “sold out from under” the restaurant. Assistant City Manager of Development Jeff Fleming said Inland Management, which bought the development from Roger Ball, wanted more return for its investment on the Cootie Brown’s property fronting Eastman Road across from Golden Corral. KEDB board member Lynn Johnson asked if the building was just too large.

Fleming and Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Miles Burdine said it was doing fine with the building, but if it reopens in another Kingsport location it would have a smaller building, possibly downtown. Burdine said the restaurant has offers of prospective new homes but for now is concentrating on a new restaurant opening in Johnson City, home of the original Cootie Brown’s.

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