OAKLAND -- Saturday was the last day of business for two popular downtown Oakland restaurants. Both owners blamed crime for killing their restaurants.
Le Cheval and Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse are located on the same block of Clay Street.
Even before Le Cheval opened at 3 p.m. Saturday, dozens of loyal customers were waiting in front of the Vietnamese restaurant hoping to get a table.
"(I've been coming here for) over 20 years. I'm going to miss Le Cheval. I'm here to stand in line for over an hour just to get this good food," said customer Cassandra, who declined to provide her last name.
"I'm going to miss the great food. The food is -- wow! It blows your mind," said another longtime customer Michael, who also declined to give a last name.
Le Cheval is considered an Oakland institution by many people.
The owner, Son Tran, struggled to hold back tears as he reflected on the restaurant that his late mother founded.
"It's tough. Tough after 38 years. I have to shut it down," Tran said. "It's emotional."
Tran blamed out-of-control car burglaries and violent crime in the neighborhood for scaring many longtime customers away.
"Today is our last day," said Eli Nascimento, who owns Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse. "It is crime. It is definitely crime."
Galeto opened in 2013. Nascimento said players from the Raiders and Warriors like Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala used to eat there before the teams moved out of Oakland. The Warriors used to have their training facility across the street.
"I'm feeling sad, feeling let down," Nascimento said.
He said he survived the lack of office workers last year because people were still dining at night. This year, he said, customers stopped coming for dinner because of the rise in robberies and car break-ins. He also lost workers due to crime.
"Right over there, (the host) got robbed. Three pistols in his head. He came back crying, saying 'Eli, I can't take it' and quit. And our customers over here, cars being broken into right there," Nascimento exclaimed.
Oakland police reported 10,581 car burglaries from January to Sept. 24 this year. That was a 42 percent increase compared to the same period last year and officers said most people have stopped reporting break-ins. The auto burglary number is likely much higher.
Police reported robbery up by 33 percent, compared to last year. They said 2,720 cases were reported from January to Sept. 24.
Restaurant owners said city leaders have to do better so other small businesses can survive.
"There's strength in numbers. Unite forces and fight -- fight for a better Oakland," Nascimento said.
As for Tran at Le Cheval, he's heartbroken but thankful to his customers for all the great memories.
"I can't believe it. The support from our customers -- they come in droves. Hundred after hundred," he said.
Tran said he's taking a quick break after the closure and hopes to find a new location to start Le Cheval outside of Oakland.
As for Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse, they have another location in Arizona.
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