WALL — For several months, the red-and-yellow sign advertising the availability of the former Circus Drive-in left the fate of the popular restaurant in doubt. Its future appeared to become clearer last weekend when a handwritten "SOLD" sign went up.

This summer would have been the 63rd the Circus was open. But earlier in the year its owners announced the property would be available for sale or lease. Several parties have expressed interest in it, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wanting to use the building as an animal torture museum.

There has been no word yet from the owners as to who the new owners are or what they will do with it. David Kayal, whose family sold the restaurant to the most recent owners at the end of the 2010 summer season, said he is hopeful the tent flaps may not have come down for the last time.

"We really think that the circus is kind of a unique part of Wall Township," he said. "It gives the town some character and we think it should be preserved as it is for future generations to enjoy"

Kayal said now that the property has been sold again, he is hoping the new owners will be more willing to listen to offers to keep the restaurant open.

"We're going to try and continue our efforts to save it from being demolished and turned into another generic strip mall that we see everywhere in New Jersey."

He said his family decided to sell the restaurant seven years ago in part because of a violent attack committed by a former employee and a "very, very generous offer" that they could not refuse at the time.

At the start of the summer, former employees of the landmark on Route 35 gathered for their last pictures in front of the clown sign and tent flaps that made the Circus immediately recognizable from the road.

Samantha Kelly, who was one of the organizers of the "Save the Circus Drive-in" Facebook page, said that day that its closure was hard for her to accept.

"There's just a lot of nostalgia about it," she said. "We had constant regulars and we had people from all over the country come because it was different."

Kayal said he believes with new owners willing to listen to offers to keep the restaurant open, he believes there is some hope of success.

"It's such a big part of New Jersey and the Jersey shore. I think the reason you're seeing people rally around it is it's part of the town. It's part of the history of the town."

"We have a lot of generic businesses," Kayal said. "Places like the Circus that have character are a special part, and should be a special part of town planning."

Although it has been seven years since his family owned the circus, Kayal said if the right opportunity presented itself he could see them once again running the popular establishment.

"We hate to see the place demolished. It is a profitable business despite what the previous owner has stated and we think it has a lot of potential to be very profitable again in the future."

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com