Joe’s Cable Car Restaurant, a fixture of San Francisco’s Excelsior District for nearly 50 years, closed its doors for good Sunday but is offering customers a chance to take home a piece of the restaurant as a souvenir today, the owner’s son said.
Owner Joe Obegi’s son, also named Joe Obegi and known around the restaurant as “Joe Jr.,” said by phone today that customers were invited for a silent auction this morning to sell keepsakes from the restaurant.
Among the items up for auction are neon signs, paintings of Obegi, clocks, lamps, figurines and menus, with some customers even expressing interest in buying booths and tables. Hats and mugs are also available for purchase, the younger Obegi said.
The restaurant sold its last hamburger sometime between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Sunday. In the process of the chaotic final dinner service, they ran out of French fries and onion rings.
Toward the end of the shift, a 27-year-old customer came in with a bottle of wine to present to the elder Obegi and asked for a Polaroid picture of his family that had been on the wall since he was 7 years old, the younger Obegi said.
“That’s a 20-year customer,” the younger Obegi said. “They really love my dad. It’s a place that’s kind of burned into their memories.”
After the shift had ended, the staff had a private party where they shared memories, took pictures, ate cake and cooked their last burger, he said.
The staff of 15 employees have all already found new jobs and are receiving two weeks’ pay, the younger Obegi said.
“It’s just been a spectacular run. Not too many places have a lifetime of 49 years,” Obegi, 41, said. “The Cable Car’s been around all my life.”
His 75-year-old father started working at the restaurant when it opened in 1965, became the owner after a few years and has owned it ever since.
He decided to close it because of continuing health problems, including having open heart surgery a few years ago, and decided he didn’t want to pass it on to different owners.
The property at 4320 Mission St. has been sold to new owners who plan to demolish the restaurant and build apartments on the site, the elder Obegi said last month.
CONTACT: Joe’s Cable Car (415) 334-6699
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