San Francisco

Louis' Restaurant in San Francisco Closing Permanently After 83 Years in Business

NBC Universal, Inc.

A historic Bay Area business unable to survive the coronavirus pandemic is calling it quits.

Louis' Restaurant, perched above the Sutro Baths in San Francisco, announced Monday it is closing permanently after serving customers for 83 years.

"This decision was very difficult to make but with everything we have seen and heard regarding reopening for indoor dining we felt it was an unsafe environment for us and our employees," the restaurant wrote in a Facebook post. "To wait out this pandemic was financially unreasonable."

Co-owner Tom Hontalas, grandson of founders Helen and Louis Hontalas, said sharing the decision with employees was tough.

"Everyone was pretty quiet, and then we couldn’t hug," he said. "That was hard. We couldn’t even hug our staff."

After announcing the closure on Facebook, Hontalas got back some of the love he and his family have put into Louis' over the past eight-plus decades.

"We’ve heard from literally hundreds of people that Louis’ had a special place in their heart," Hontalas said. "It was overwhelming."

Fighting back tears, Hontalas reflected on the history of the family restaurant. His grandfather immigrated to the United States at 11, lying about his age in order to make the journey. The restaurant was nearly destroyed in the 1966 Sutro Baths fire, only to be rebuilt. A legacy left to his father and then his brother and him will now be left for someone to start over sometime in the future.

"I’m actually doing pretty well, but in the past couple of days, I’ve gotten emotional," Hontalas said.

The National Park Service will ultimately decide what to do with the property, but Hontalas said he believes a dispute that was settled in the 1990s will preserve its use as a restaurant.

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