Kent's Pufferbelly

will close Jan. 1

Kent's Pufferbelly Ltd., one of the longest-standing restaurants in the city, will close heading into the new year. The Franklin Avenue restaurant opened in 1981 and its lease is up. The landmark Erie Depot building is owned by the Kent Historical Society.

"With many mixed emotions I am formally announcing that the Pufferbelly will not be accepting reservations after Jan. 1, 2017," owner Kevin Long said in a statement. "My tenancy with Kent Historical Society is ending. I have had the honor of working for what I consider to be the best patrons and community for 35 years.

"I am very proud to have had some of the same servers and staff members for almost as many of those years. My staff is staying with me until Jan. 1. My main concern is for my employees. They come first."

Michael Awad, the owner of Laziza in downtown Kent, will take over Pufferbelly, according to Scott Flynn, vice president of the Historical Society.

"We gave the current tenant an opportunity to continue leasing, but financially it didn't make any sense for either party," Flynn said. "We were working off an old lease and they were great tenants. It's time for a change. The new tenant is going to make a substantial investments into the building."

The society urges people to continue visiting the restaurant up until the end of the lease. There will be music played at the location on New Year's Eve.

-- Andrew Bugel,