The iconic sign soaring high above Highway 101 in Santa Rosa bears a simple statement: "Los Robles Lodge, No Thursday Liquid Lounge."
But the long stretch of chain-link fence surrounding the fabled Cleveland Avenue property tells the story: No rooms for rent, no morning coffee at the diner, no late-night drinks at the bar.
Los Robles Lodge - a mainstay in Santa Rosa for more than four decades - is closed for good as the new owners press forward with plans to build 80 condominiums on the site.
"It's kind of depressing. It's like losing a child. The staff was family - everybody was there 15, 20, 25 years," said John Burton, former beverage manager and catering boss at Los Robles for nearly 30 years under longtime former owner Claus Neumann. "It was the hub, it was the place, it was the who's who."
But the facility on 3.45 acres at Cleveland and Edwards avenues had struggled in recent years under a changing lineup of owners.
A pest infestation temporarily shut the kitchen last year, and recent owners publicly floated plans to raze the facility and build a big-box retail center.
The hotel was shuttered in March, a nightclub on-site was shut by the city July 19 and the whole facility was shuttered for good Aug. 2, said Peter Schellinger, development manager for BayRock Residential LLC of Emeryville.
BayRock is the managing member of an investment company that bought the facility last August and leased it back to former owners Joy and Andy Kalia. That lease ended this month.
Schellinger, who grew up in Santa Rosa, acknowledged the "emotional attachment" local people have for Los Robles, but called the facility "physically obsolete." "Without question, it's outlived its time," he said.
Schellinger hopes the site's renaissance will come in the form of 80 condos targeting empty nesters to first-time home buyers. The intended sales price for the one-, two- and three-bedroom units with an average of 1,400 square feet will be less than $600,000, he said.
"We think it's an exciting opportunity," he said, noting the project could be reviewed by the city Planning Commission in October.
For Neumann, who along with Tony Vicini bought the place in 1962 and finally bid it adieu for good in 1994, this month's closure was a moment that needed to come.
After running a kitchen that catered to politicos from Pat Nixon and Reagan-era Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to Hollywood's elite, including Barbra Streisand and James Caan, Neumann faced mounting competition.
Eventually, it was clear the place couldn't keep up, Neumann said.
"We just weren't built to be four stars. We could do what we wanted to, bring the finest chef from Europe, and you would still have an old, tired roadhouse unless you change the whole thing and it's just not worth it at that point," he said. "I drive by Los Robles and sometimes I say, 'It was a good time,' but you know, it could not have lasted forever."
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