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The Church's Chicken on Meeting Street (above) was among about two dozen Church's restaurants that were shut down earlier this year over unpaid bills. The Charleston location was back in business about a month before the chain's only Orangeburg location was reopened. File/Wade Spees/Staff

ORANGEBURG — An Orangeburg fast-food chicken chain that was shut down because of a franchise legal dispute has reopened.

Church's Chicken, which is in front of the Prince of Orange Mall, reopened for business on June 29.

Customers who had been missing the food from region's only Church's Chicken, were quick to return. The parking lot was full and the drive-thru was three cars deep July 2 as customers flocked to the dining establishment for an early lunch.

Elloree resident Gwen Woods said she was tickled the restaurant is open again.

"I looked and I said, 'Oh, my God, they are back open!'" Woods said. "They were closed a long time. I am glad they are open."

"They have the best chicken," she added. "It is like homemade. It does not have all that spicy stuff. It is like Sunday home-cooking."

Woods said when she comes to Orangeburg — about three times a month — Church's Chicken is on her menu, particularly her favorites, the chicken and the mashed potatoes. She said she also likes the corn.

Danielle Mack, also of Elloree, was enjoying her lunch at Church's.

"I love the chicken," she said. "They have the best food. It is not greasy. It is the best. I would eat here any day."

Mack said the restaurant is a destination whenever she comes to Orangeburg.

"Church's Chicken is my favorite place," St. Matthews resident Erica Parker said while dining on some chicken and macaroni and cheese. "I was so sad when they were closed. Now that it is open, I am so happy."

"They make the best macaroni and cheese," she added.

Parker also praised the service at the restaurant.

"They are very nice and respectful," she said. "If you had anything that needed to be go back, they would take it with no complaints."

Darlene Stone said she eats at the restaurant about twice a week.

"It is better than KFC," Stone said, noting the chicken breast, the mashed potatoes and gravy, and the biscuits are her favorites.

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The restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

The reopening of the restaurant came on the heels of some legal trouble.

The Orangeburg Church's Chicken was one of 24 Church's restaurants listed in a lawsuit alleging their franchisees owed millions in unpaid debts.

The restaurant franchisee, which was controlled by Charleston-based State Acquisitions LLC, was sued by First Franchise Capital Corp. for more than $3.3 million in allegedly unpaid debts.

According to Orangeburg County property records, the property is owned by New York-based Vereit out of Phoenix, Ariz.

Vereit, which owns 18 Church's properties, sought more than $815,000 in back rent and unpaid taxes. It also claimed the buildings' wear and tear "exceed reasonable and ordinary" standards in violation of the leases.

Church's corporate officials renegotiated leases for the stores so they could reopen as company-operated Church's restaurants.

Church's Chicken officials did not immediately respond when reached for comment about the Orangeburg restaurant's reopening.

In addition to legal issues, the Orangeburg restaurant was also shut down because of fires in February 2017 and August 2015.