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Beloved Palo Alto eatery Mike's Diner Bar set to close Sunday

Beloved Palo Alto eatery set to close for good on Father's Day
Beloved Palo Alto eatery set to close for good on Father's Day 04:05

PALO ALTO -- Mike's Diner Bar, a beloved fixture in the Palo Alto community, is set to close its doors for good, marking the end of an era. 

Owner Mike Wallau, who has been at the helm of the diner for 30 years, announced the closure. He narrowly avoided eviction last year.

After serving the community for three decades, Mike's Diner Bar will host a special closing celebration Sunday in honor of Father's Day. Wallau, a familiar face to many, expressed mixed feelings about his decision.

"It's gonna be difficult not having all the customers that we've had for so long," Wallau said. "It hasn't been any problems with the property owners or anything like that. It's just evaluating the full-service restaurant and the profitability that it's gonna provide now and in the future. From a business perspective, I think the full restaurant service model is broken."

Nate Zobel, a longtime colleague and expert on Palo Alto's restaurant scene, echoed Wallau's sentiments about the industry's challenges. "It's not really bouncing back the way we expected it from COVID," Zobel noted. "The margins are already very thin, profits are getting eaten by things like inflation, cost of labor and things like that. So, I think it's a combination of those things and not seeing the return as much as we hoped for."

The decision to close comes after a tumultuous recent history. Last year, the diner nearly shut down when Wallau was late with a rent payment. The community rallied, helping it stay open. 

Reflecting on the support from the community, Wallau expressed deep gratitude.

"I'm so grateful … it's not too many restaurants that have a 30-year run," he said. "The support … just growing up down the street I know my whole life … just gratitude -- just very grateful for the support of the customers, the staff."

As he prepares for the final day, Wallau can  be seen engaging with customers and managing the bustling diner that has become a cornerstone of Palo Alto's identity. Many longtime patrons were disappointed by news of the closure.

"I'm really bummed out about it," said one loyal customer. "I've been coming here for years. I used to go to other restaurants but my brother and I would come here from Fremont every Saturday for the great food and enjoy the nighttime."

Looking ahead, Wallau plans to focus on his consulting business. However, when asked about his immediate plans post-closure, he admitted, "I have no idea but I'm gonna feel the weight of the world come off my shoulders 'cause it's a lot of responsibility. At one time I had three restaurants and was working seven days a week."

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