Katrina Foley waited tables at Ruby’s Diner on the Huntington Beach Pier when she was in high school.

“I loved walking in,” said Foley, 31, no relation to the Costa Mesa mayor of the same name.  “It was always loud and fun and full of life.”

At noon Friday, Feb. 26, she stood in a long and getting-longer line outside her former workplace. Like other fans waiting to order their last Ruby’s burger from the pier restaurant, the Huntington Beach nurse had come to bid farewell.

After 25 years, the restaurant at the tip of the pier would close for good that evening.

 

“Oh my goodness, I’m bummed,” said Foley, who learned the news when it exploded on community Facebook pages the previous night. “I was here all the time as a kid.”

Now she returned with both the dad who once brought her and with her own young daughter.

“Katrina looked so cute in her Ruby’s uniform,” said Dean Groscost, 60, recalling the chain’s signature 1940s-style red-striped dress with apron.

For years, Groscost has eaten at the Ruby’s twice weekly: “It’s pretty much my favorite place.”

The original Ruby’s Diner landed on the Balboa Pier in 1982 – it is still open. Fourteen years later, the successful chain expanded to  Huntington Beach – replacing The End Cafe, which plummeted into the ocean during a 1988 storm.

But for the past decade, the enterprise has struggled and in 2018, operators of the Ruby’s Diner restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy. There are 14 Ruby’s Diners that remain open in Southern California, according to its website.

Representatives for the company could not be reached for comment.

On Friday morning, the Huntington Beach location’s manager David Longo loaded a truck with boxes of liquor and other straggling items.

“We knew this day was coming, but we didn’t know exactly when until one week ago,” Longo said. “All of us are sad, absolutely.”

Because of coronavirus restrictions, not even nostalgic former employees could step inside for one last glance at the Jan & Dean’s Tiki Lounge upstairs. The kitchy bar featured bamboo walls, totem poles, tropical drinks and a stunning  260-degree view of the Pacific Ocean.

Longo said the best thing about calling the Ruby’s his office was the breathtaking view. “It’s like being on a cruise ship – all you see is ocean.”

Rare is the place in California that you can enjoy an $11 burger while peering down on blue waves. Such has been the charm of the Surf City Ruby’s.

“It’s a family restaurant with an incredible view that you don’t have to pay a lot for,” said music teacher Darren Huntting, 51. “If the next place is pricey, that’s a deal breaker for someone on a teacher’s salary.”

Huntington Beach City Manager Oliver Chi said the new restaurant will feature seafood. Although the city owns the facility, it did not play a role in identifying a new tenant in bankruptcy proceedings, he said.

To relax before work, air conditioner repairman Adrian Varela, 34, said he fishes off the pier regularly.

“Oh, man, I’ve been coming here for 22 years,” he said. “I usually get breakfast – bacon, eggs, OJ. And you gotta have the white bread.”

The only way he could persuade his wife to accompany him fishing was with the lure of breakfast at Ruby’s, Varela said. “Now she’ll never come with me again.”

For Jeromy Brackemyer, 23, and Hannah Marshall, 21, Ruby’s has been around a lifetime. “I’d walk up to the window in my swimsuit and get a shake,” Marshall said.

Brackemyer’s mother, whose job hours kept her away, texted him about Ruby’s demise – urging a visit on her behalf. “I haven’t been in a while, but Mom used to bring me here all the time,” he said. “My favorite thing was getting a balloon hat.”

Fountain Valley teacher Amy St. Clair, 42, stood in line with her two children Dylan, 10, and Camille, 8, and their buddy Kenzie Real, 9. All three kids had a different shake in mind: cookie dough, chocolate turtle and Hershey’s.

“I’m just going to sample theirs,” St. Clair said.

“What?!” Camille territoriality responded. “Nooooo.”

Emily McCready and Katherine Waide, both 18, have been best friends since middle school – when they tagged along with one another’s families to Ruby’s. Now they both attend UC Santa Barbara, virtually this semester.

As they mulled over what to order, both decided on chicken strips. “It’s what we’ve been getting since we were kids,” Waide said.

“As you can see, we have the same lives,” joked McCready.

Tami Rivera, 50, stopped by for a burger and chocolate malt. “I don’t usually get a malt, but I’m splurging today,” she said. “I come here constantly. My son likes the little jukeboxes. I’m going to go through withdrawal.”

Rivera said she hopes the next operator leaves in place the signature red roof atop the octagonal building.

“It’s an icon,” she said. “When you see that roof, you know you’re in Huntington Beach.”



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