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Builder: Rocky Top KFC/Taco Bell to reopen in May

The contractor says the Rocky Top KFC/Taco Bell restaurant is not going to be changing anything other than getting a renovated interior and repainted exterior while it’s closed for remodeling. (photo:G. Chambers Williams III )
Rocky Top residents upset over the recent closing of the KFC/Taco Bell restaurant on Colonial Lane can look forward to it reopening in early May after a comprehensive remodeling, the builder in charge of the work said this week.

“We’re hoping to get it opened in the next month and a half,” said Chase Wolfenbarger, project manager for RTC General Contractors in Knoxville.

“We build and remodel a lot of KFCs and Taco Bells, and this one is just undergoing an updating required by the parent company, Yum Brands, of its franchisees every 18 to 20 years,” he said.

Rumors on social media that either the KFC or the Taco Bell side of the restaurant would be going away with the remodeling are unfounded, Wolfenbarger said.

“It will still be both brands in the same store,” he said.

On Friday, workers were repainting the red-and-white scheme of KFC on the east side of the building.

Still up in the air, though, and the subject of much speculation, is what will happen to the site of the Sonic restaurant attached to the west side of the Marathon gas station building at 605 N. Main St., just a few doors down from the KFC/Taco Bell.

The Sonic closed in February about the same time as the KFC/Taco Bell, with a sign posted on the drive-through window saying it was “Closed for renovations.”

But no work has yet begun on any renovations, and workers in the gas station/convenience store said they had not heard anything about what the plans are for the Sonic space.

Social media posts have suggested that a Wendy’s restaurant would be taking its place, but the manager of one of Clinton’s two Wendy’s locations said that’s not going to happen.

“Wendy’s is building a new location in Oneida right now, and it will be a while before another new store is built in the area,” said Adrienne Hopeck, who manages the West Clinton Wendy’s.

She also said there’s little chance that Wendy’s would come into a location attached to a convenience store. The company doesn’t do that anymore, she said.

“I do know Wendy’s has been looking at the vacant lot right next door to KFC [on Colonial Lane] for a new location, but not at the Marathon site,” Hopeck said. Her family, including her mother and husband, have long been associated with Wendy’s restaurants in the area, including in Jellico.

J.T. Kiestler, general manager of the Clinton Sonic drive-in, said he has heard no news about the Rocky Top Sonic location, including whether it actually will be remodeled and reopened as a Sonic, or turned into something else.

Likewise, Rocky Top city officials said last week that they have seen no building permit applications for any work at the Sonic site.

The nearest Sonic locations now are in LaFollete and Clinton.