Louis' Restaurant permanently closes its doors in San Francisco after 83 years

Louis', one of San Francisco's oldest and most loved eateries, has closed its doors permanently after waiting four long months in limbo for the all-clear to reopen. 

It was a place where almost everyone who has driven along the coast has seen or stopped by for a bite. Nonetheless,  the restaurant has been owned and run by the same family for three generations but it has since fallen to the coronavirus. 

For 83 years, Louis' Restaurant overlooked the Pacific from the bluff above the Cliff House, Seal Rocks, and the Sutro Baths. Founded by Greek immigrants, Louis and Helen Hontalas, it opened on Valentine's Day 1937. 

"My mom would bring us to see my dad cooking and both my brother and I started working, washing dishes when we were 10 years old back in the 60s," said owner Tom Hontalas.

Countless tourists from all over the world enjoyed its breathtaking views, including the Farallon Islands on clear days; a charming place to shelter from the often windy, wet and cold weather. 

"Even when it was stormy, people would come out and see the waves crashing on Seal Rocks. So, it really didn't matter if it is was sunny or gloomy," said Hontalas. 

But its real lifeblood: local regulars who came year-round. 

"The locals of San Francisco, that was also a big part. We were really a part of this community," said Hontalas.

Louis' survived multiple fires, World War II rationing, numerous recessions, 15 San Francisco mayors, 13 California governors, and 14 U.S. presidents. 
Customers spanned four generations, from survivors of the Spanish flu to people of today's pandemic. 

"We get people all the time coming in and saying, 'Oh, my grandparents took me here when I was little.' And now, they're actually here with their grandchildren. It's thoughts like that that really warmed our hearts," said Hontalas.

But COVID would not be denied now and until who knows when. 

"It just didn't seem that it would be financially worth it and as far as the safety aspect. We were not comfortable putting our staff through that. We didn't want anyone to get sick on our watch," said Hontalas. 

The family thanks customers for their decades of support and well-wishers for their future. Hontalas held back tears saying, "It's goodbye. Thanks."