Owner says National Hills IHOP to close when lease expires



The owner of a Washington Road restaurant that has served residents and tourists for almost 35 years is closing the business next year.

Bill Downie, who also owns other IHOP restaurants on Washington Road in Evans and on Peach Orchard Road in Augusta, said he will close the National Hills IHOP at 2525 Washington Road at the end of April, after his lease expires.

He said he would like to find another location along Washington Road nearer Interstate 20, but he is not certain that will happen.

“At this point, we been looking for about six months, and we haven’t found anything,” he said.

Downie said Augusta National Golf Club informed him that it will not renew his lease and that the building will be torn down.

According to county records, the land under the IHOP was purchased in 2000 by Big Tree LLC, as part of the acquisition of the Big Tree shopping center.

Steve Ethun, a spokesman for Augusta National, said that as policy the club does not comment on its business dealings or plans for the future use of its property.

Downie said he would prefer to find an existing restaurant that has closed and convert that into an IHOP rather than start from scratch.

He said new construction is too expensive in this economy.

“The problem is that IHOP won’t let me build small stores anymore,” he said.

He said the National Hills restaurant is an older style A-frame store, which seats about 90 customers.

The Peach Orchard Road restaurant, which he built in 2010, cost more than $3 million to construct and seats 180 people, which is great for large events, but not for everyday business, Downie said.

“On the weekend that restaurant is half-full,” he said.

Downie hopes that after the National Hills location closes many of his customers will seek out his other two restaurants.

In the meantime, he will be scouting for possible locations. He said that if a new address isn’t found, he doesn’t expect any of his National Hills employees to lose their livelihoods.

“I’m sure I’ll be able to move over my employees to the other two stores,” he said.