Harry's Hofbrau restaurant to close after 42 years in San Jose

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The 42-year-old Harry's Hofbrau restaurant will close at the end of service on Tuesday night after losing its lease, the San Jose restaurant announced this week. Not even inclement weather would keep the faithful from lining up for one last visit. 

Known since 1976 for its turkey, beer and generous portions, the German cafeteria-style restaurant at 390 Saratoga Ave. was once part of a larger chain, but only two other locations remain in Redwood City and San Leandro. 

"It's really sad that they're leaving, seriously," said patron Cindy Zepeda, as she stood under an umbrella. 

"I basically grew up here. This is my wife, Mae, and we're coming here for one last time to check in and say goodbye. It almost feels like a funeral," said Brad Wittke as he sat in a booth with his wife and parents. 

The restaurant said years of service had taken a toll on the facility and the city of San Jose and investors have plans to redevelop the site.

Owner Larry Kramer said his family-style restaurant was a big gamble four decades ago, that ultimately paid dividends. 

"It's just grown and grown through all the years," Kramer said on closing day. "We're so proud, we're so sad to leave." 

Kramer waited on customers who crammed inside the spacious restaurant. 

"Thank you for your patronage and loyalty throughout the years," the restaurant wrote in a statement on its website. "Our success is only because of you and our hard-working staff."

According to city documents from 2016, the site is called the Garden City Mixed-Use Project and will include a 1.5-acre public park, 400,000 square feet of office space, almost 900 housing units and 15,000 square feet of retail. 

Social media users on Tuesday shared photos of longtime patrons in lines wrapped around the restaurant as they prepared to visit the San Jose location one last time.

"The fact that they would have a whole turkey and your sandwiches would be slices off that whole turkey. And there was no additives," said Art Wittke, who's been coming since shortly after the restaurant's initial opening. 

The owner and managers said about 60 employees who work at this location will be out of a job after Tuesday. They're trying to incorporate those employees into other Hofbrau locations. However, a lot of those workers don't want to make the long drive up the peninsula or to the East Bay. 

"It's like a catch-22 and we're in the middle here," Kramer said.  

"With no current lease in place, it is time to say "Goodbye" to all our wonderful customers," the restaurant's statement said. "We will miss you ALL."

"[It's] probably a new norm," said Kelly Snider, a San Jose State University professor of urban and regional planning. "I think we can expect to see a lot more of this." 

She said the real estate crisis is at the heart of Harry's closing, which will likely lead to new development. 

"How do you reconcile the need for a new built environment to accommodate our growing population, with these ancient, outdated, built places? The answer is you have to rebuild them," said Snider.