September 13, 2023
Red Lion Diner, a popular Burlington County pit stop for people traveling to and from the Jersey Shore, permanently closed last weekend after 50 years in Southampton Township. A Wawa will be built in its place.
The diner's regal lion sculpture has long stood out at the Red Lion Circle, where Route 206 and Route 70 meet about 50 miles from Atlantic City and 25 miles from Philadelphia.
"With a heavy heart we must inform you that the Red Lion Diner has sold," a Facebook post from the diner last Saturday said. "We will not be opening again. We appreciate all the support and patronage throughout the years. It was a difficult decision however we chose what was best for our families."
Owner Efthimios “Paul” Tsiknakis told the Courier-Post that the COVID-19 pandemic strained the family's businesses and upended plans to build a new diner.
"After we saw the cost of construction increase drastically as everybody has felt and interest rates increasing so much, it wasn’t financially feasible to rebuild the diner on the development piece," Tsiknakis said.
Red Lion's ownership also runs Monarch Diner in Glassboro and Marblehead Chowder House locations in Westampton and Easton, Pennsylvania. Tsiknakis and his family have owned Red Lion Diner for the last 5 1/2 years. It opened in 1973.
A&B Development Group, which purchased the diner's property, has plans drawn up for a Super Wawa.
Tsiknakis said the closure was abrupt due to legal issues surrounding the sale, which shortened the amount of time he had left to keep the restaurant open. Some staff at the diner have been offered jobs at his other restaurants, he said.
The lion sculpture on the property has been purchased by nearby Red Lion Metals, which will keep it displayed near the busy traffic circle.
New Jersey is often called the diner capital of the U.S., with more than 400 such businesses scattered across the state. But Red Lion Diner joins a growing list of longstanding diners in the region — including the Cherry Hill Diner and Bordentown Township's Mastoris Diner — that have closed in recent years. In Philadelphia and the surrounding area, beloved restaurants like Little Pete's in Center City, Trolley Car Diner and Oak Lane Diner all have closed. Bucks County's R&S Keystone Diner shuttered in May after 75 years in business.
Any outstanding gift cards at Red Lion Diner can be redeemed for a full refund by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the gift card number, name and address.