A Placer County restaurant that has served the community for almost seven decades will close its doors for good on Sunday.
Lou La Bonte’s restaurant and bar opened in 1946 by the restaurant’s name sake. La Bonte was a well-established Hollywood music producer turned restaurateur. The original store in Weimar was open for ten years, but with the expansion of I-80, the family moved their restaurant along the new Interstate. Since then, the restaurant has been best known for their hamburgers, prime rib, and the iconic neon sign.
Lou’s daughter Judy took over the business, and continued to serve the community for decades. She spoke with FOX40 about some of the best memories she had at the eatery.
“When I was a little girl in Weimar, my brother and I raised chickens for the chicken dinners, and then when it came time to butcher the chickens, we’d cry and cry because those were our pets.”
Many long-time patrons visited Lou La Bonte’s one last time, and shared some of their favorite moments with the owner.
“We were a skiing family, and this was our last stop,” 95-year-old James W. Porter said. “We’d eat here before we go up to Tahoe to ski.”
“I’ve cooked here, washed dishes here, waited tables, bar tended, I did a little bit of all,” said Julie Joiner. Joiner worked at the restaurant for 30 years before bringing her friends and granddaughters for one last meal.
“I was two days old when I first came here, and this restaurant means a lot to me because a lot of my childhood memories are here,” Joiner’s granddaughter, Reowl Rey said. “I’m butt hurt they are closing because I really like this place.”
“I’m going to just miss being here and all, because I grew up here, and it’s like my second home,” sister Grace Rey said.
Many who couldn’t make it on the last day sent letters, thanking the La Bonte family. Reading the notes and seeing the drawings people sent to the restaurant made Judy la Bonte tear up.
“How talented,” La Bonte said. “I can’t believe it. That was very nice.”
As she greeted her last customers, La Bonte said it had not hit her yet.
“Maybe tomorrow or the next day when I sit in my car, start to drive to work, and I’ll find out that I don’t have a job anymore!”
Many patrons asked La Bonte what she was going to do with the iconic, gigantic sign. La Bonte said the sign has been sold along with the building to the new owner, Don Baker. He and his wife are the owners of Awful Annie’s, a small restaurant in Old Auburn. They are hoping the new location will provide the bigger space they need. After a four month renovation, Awful Annie’s will open in Spring, 2015.
Judy La Bonte, 74, said the store’s closing is perfect timing for her retirement. She said she is excited to spend more time with her six grandchildren in Georgia.