LONG BEACH - For Long Beach resident Judy Crumpton, the Hof's Hut restaurant at Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway is more than a place to eat.
It was the place where her husband worked as a busboy and later a dishwasher and where her son-in-law worked as a bartender. It was where she met up with friends after a night of fun and had an order of what she considers the best onion rings in California.
"I have lots of fond memories of this restaurant," she said. "We had great times. This particular Hof's Hut has been ingrained in our family.
So when Crumpton found out that her beloved neighborhood restaurant may be closing, she and about two dozen patrons came down to the restaurant Thursday to protest the closure scheduled for March 1.
They held up signs that read, "Oh no! Hof's can't go!" and "Watt's wrong with this picture. Hands Hof our watering hole!" and "Craig Hoffman: Listen to the people speak. Save Our Hof's Hut."
"We're here to help an old friend," said former Mayor Beverly O'Neill, who was among the protesters.
The family restaurant, which seats about 250 people, has been a local mainstay since 1961. For many, it is where generations of families go to eat after church on Sundays or friends have a drink and watch a sports game.
But the new property owners and Hof's Hut owner Craig Hofman couldn't agree on a lease.
"Hof's has been in negotiations with the new owners for probably upwards of a year," said Hof's spokeswoman Erin Peacock. "We're here today because those negotiations were unsuccessful."
Peacock said the decision was not an easy one to make for Hofman.
"Up until the day he had to announce that it was closing, he had hope," she said. "They were working really hard to stay.
Meanwhile, Hof's will work to help employees transition to another Hof's Hut and other company restaurants such as Lucille's BBQ, she said.
"They're doing everything they can to make this as easy on the employees as possible," Peacock said.
However, some patrons said they aren't ready to let their neighborhood joint go.
"As far as I'm concerned, this particular restaurant is a Long Beach landmark," Crumpton said. "I don't want to see everything in this city being chiseled away."
Columnist Tim Grobaty contributed to this story.