After 57 years in business, Joe’s of Westlake is closing its doors for a makeover. Owner Melinda Scatena announced late last month that she was selling the popular restaurant to the Duggan family, owners of the Original Joe’s restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach.
Although the Duggans plan to reopen after making upgrades, the restaurant’s final day of operation in its current form will be Jan. 26.
Employees say that since the closure was announced, the Italian-American restaurant has seen a significant uptick in business from longtime customers. On a recent night, the bar, lobby and both dining rooms were packed.
While electrician Jim Hoogerhyde waited to be seated, he explained that he’d been coming to Joe’s of Westlake for more than 20 years, and he was “extremely unhappy” about the impending closure.
“It’s going to be sad to see it go, which is why I came here tonight,” he said.
Like ‘Closing Disneyland’
The restaurant’s workers also expressed sadness and surprise. Hostess Laura Howell said she expected to work at Joe’s of Westlake until she retired, and fellow hostess Jackie Rodriguez said she was devastated by the news. Rodriguez said her father had been an employee for 30 years, and she grew up with Joe’s.
“Somebody told me it’s like they’re closing Disneyland,” she said.
Another employee with a multi-generational connection to the restaurant is server Stephanie Grey, who said of the closure, “My grandpa is rolling over in his grave right now.”
Scatena said she regrets that her employees have sad feelings about the shutdown, but that she chose to sell the restaurant in order to focus on her health. She had emergency open-heart surgery last year after suffering an aneurysm. Although Scatena said she’s slowly getting her energy back, she no longer wanted to have the pressure of restaurant ownership.
“When you almost die, somebody’s telling you to kick back and not get so stressed,” she said.
Like some of her employees, Scatena said she grew up with Joe’s of Westlake. When her father, Bruno, opened the restaurant in 1956, she was there to cut the ribbon with developer Henry Doelger. When her father died in 1983, she took over.
Some notable customers who have stopped into the restaurant over the years include Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey, whom Scatena said came in frequently with his partner, Blanche Barton. Recording artist Chris Isaak also visited the restaurant on a few occasions, Scatena said.
Another loyal customer who lamented the popular restaurant’s shutdown is Rob Keil, but his interest is more than just personal. His coffee table book, “Little Boxes: The Architecture Of A Classic Midcentury Suburb,” is a tribute to the architecture of Daly City’s Westlake neighborhood and its developer, Doelger. Keil said Joe’s of Westlake was practically the centerpiece of the business district Doelger created, and therefore has tremendous historical importance to the city.
Keil said he wants to film the restaurant’s interior for his forthcoming documentary about Westlake and Doelger. He also hopes to get in touch with the Duggans and advise them as to which parts of the building are original, and shouldn’t be altered during the planned renovation.
Original Joe’s partner John Duggan said his family would proceed with “great respect” for the building and its history, emphasizing that they consider the planned upgrades to be an architectural restoration. Duggan said he couldn’t predict how long the project would take, or when the restaurant would reopen.
The new owners are thrilled to be upgrading the property and carrying on the Original Joe’s brand, Duggan said, but he declined to say whether Joe’s of Westlake would keep its name or be re-branded as an Original Joe’s location. He added that out of respect for some people’s feelings, he didn’t want to reveal too much about future plans.