Community rallies to save historic restaurant, others shutting down across US amid pandemic


NEWHALL, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — A lack of business amid the COVID-19 pandemic has put more restaurants out of business, including some more than a century old.

The Saugus Cafe is the oldest restaurant in Los Angeles County. It dates back to back to 1886, but as is the case for restaurants across America these days, it is in a painful fight to survive, knowing many historic places have already folded.

The takeout orders are fairly steady these days at the Saugus Cafe in Newhall, north of Los Angeles.

After health officials imposed another ban on in-person dining, pleas on social media have sparked a healthy wave of community support.

Saugus was on the verge of shutting down.

“We’re spending more than what the income is so, we kept seeing that throughout the month so it was like, we have to prepare for it,” said owner Yesenia Mercado.

Nancy Larimer is among the many ordering takeout here for the first time.

“I like to help others, I like to be there for others. This restaurant is part of our town, it has a history with it,” Larimer said.

The history dates back 133 years and several owners have proudly kept the place going.

Over the decades, the famous who’ve dropped in are said to include Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and John Wayne.

In 2011, Ryan Gosling sat at the counter for a scene in the movie, “Drive.”

Now, it’s a drive keep the place alive.

“We were looking for a place to eat so I said let’s go to Saugus Cafe and help them out,” said customer Alvaro Pinto.

All over the country, other historic restaurants are also hanging by a thread or already history, such as the famous 21 Club in New York City and the original Morton’s Steakhouse in Chicago.

Nearby, Lawry’s in the historic McCormick Mansion will permanently close in two weeks.

That’s when the iconic Cliff House in San Francisco will also call it quits after 157 years.

In Portland, Oregon, the Dan and Louis Oyster Bar is hoping to stay alive.

The great-grandfather of Keoni Wachsmuth opened the place in 1907.

“We we’re just running this thing like a well-oiled machine,” Wachsmuth said.

It’s estimated that well over half all independent restaurants will not survive the pandemic.

Latest coronavirus headlines

For those still kicking, community support is a make-or-break lifeline.

“If it keeps going like it’s going, then definitely. All day, people are just calling and placing orders, buying merchandise,” Mercado said. “It’s just amazing how this town is filled with love.”

The Saugus Cafe and many other restaurants have set up GoFundMe accounts to help cover costs.

The pandemic has closed more than 110,000 restaurants nationwide, according to the National Restaurant Association. 16% of them had been open for at least 30 years.

© 1998 - 2021 Nexstar Inc. | All Rights Reserved.