After 45 years in business, popular San Jose restaurant Emperor Norton’s is closing for good Sunday, in part because of the strain COVID-19 has placed on the business.
On Saturday night a long line of customers waited for orders, but nobody complained about the wait on the last night they would enjoy a longtime local favorite.
“Unfortunately it feels horrible,” said Doug Savage, an employee. “It’s like losing a second home. This is a restaurant that is going to be missed by the entire community.”
Employees said that, like many restaurants, Emperor Norton’s struggled with increasing rent, labor and food costs. But it was coronavirus that packed an unexpected punch.
“Unfortunately it had to do with the COVID crisis going on,” said Savage.
On Saturday night, employees said business was up more than 40%, with customers coming in to say their final goodbyes.
For customer Brent Przybus, the restaurant is filled with good memories.
“I grew up just down the street from here,” he said. “We used to come here as kids with our parents in the late 70s.”
Przybus said he’s sad to see the neighborhood eatery close.
“It’s kind of sad with this COVID-19 you think something that’s been around this long and has done well and then to have this happen, it’s pretty sad,” he said.
Emperor Norton’s will close for good Sunday at 8 p.m. Employees said it’s been especially difficult because of social distancing they can’t even hug longtime customers goodbye.