Saturday 10 December 2022
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Syracuse Mall Will Collect $10.3M From Toby Keith’s Shuttered Bar and Grill

Out of business note printed on paperThe infamous Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill has been ordered by a Syracuse judge to pay Destiny USA a settlement of $10.5 million for a breach in its contract, making this just another chapter in an interesting feud between the country music star and an Upstate New York mall.

Toby Keith’s had been a tenant of Syracuse’s Destiny USA shopping mall but ran into financial difficulties — including $300,000 of unpaid taxes to New York state — and closed during May 2015.

According to, the restaurant “abandoned its third floor location [in the mall] in the middle of the night.”

Toby Keith’s was due in court this past November to contest the lawsuit, brought by Destiny USA, for not paying rent on time. The shopping mall also stated that Toby Keith’s had broken its contract by leaving its space in the mall in 2015, because its 2013 contract included a 10-year lease which would have extended to 2023.

The mall originally argued that Toby Keith’s owed $1 million in rent, but it increased this amount to roughly $10 million in June 2015.

Toby Keith’s failed to show up in court to contest the lawsuit, however, and NY Supreme Court Justice Hugh Gilbert ruled in favor of Destiny USA.

Still, it’s worth wondering whether Toby Keith’s is really at fault for missing its rent payments, or if Destiny USA took an easy opportunity to collect some cash after seeing that Toby Keith’s was on the decline.

“Destiny courted us,” said John Thomas, vice president of marketing and entertainment of Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, to in Feb. 2015. “They came to us and said look, if for some reason you guys aren’t making the money, we’ll go for a percentage [of rent] instead.”

The inclusion of the restaurant helped Destiny “court” other tenants, Thomas explained. The mall continued on successfully with floors of tenants while the restaurant encountered financial problems.

“This is just a game that they’re playing. We got [the mall] up and running. Now they want to fight us on a technicality,” said Thomas.

It certainly does sound like “a bitter divorce,” as described the situation. Unfortunately for Toby Keith, this highly-publicized business divorce is taking a lot longer than the maximum 12 months it would take for a personal divorce to be worked out in court.

Other tenants in the mall have encountered legal troubles with Destiny USA, according to The mall is currently suing IHOP for $1.2 million in back rent, and it previously sued Gap Inc. for closing its location abruptly.