The Inland Empire will enter 2020 with a lot of beloved restaurants dark and shuttered, but rebirth for a lucky few.
Dining experts say these are challenging times for full-service restaurants, causing some owners and chains to throw in the towel.
Here are some of the farewells of 2019.
Claim Jumper, Corona: OK, this restaurant at 380 McKinley St. actually closed on Dec. 26, 2018, but the lump-of-coal date cast a pall on the upcoming year. Landry’s, the chain’s parent company, attributed the closure to “natural lease expiration” and said it was working to relocate the staff. The building was bulldozed early in 2019. Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar constructed a similar building on the site and opened in early November.
The Bridge on Third, Temecula: It was a year of change for Old TownTemecula, beginning in January with the closure of this British pub at 41915 Third St.
Cafe Sevilla, Riverside: This Spanish-themed restaurant at 3252 Mission Inn Ave. closed in February in a dispute between its owners and the City of Riverside and a Halloween party shooting incident. The property has been reopened by new owners as an events center called Avila’s Historic 1929.
The Castaway, San Bernardino: April was the cruelest month for restaurant closures, at least until August. One of the early casualties was this hilltop restaurant at 670 Kendall Drive. Although it closed its dining room it reopened for Easter and Mother’s Day brunches. It later reopened under new ownership as an events center.
Hometown Buffet, Moreno Valley: This family-style restaurant inside Moreno Valley Mall closed on April 14, and its contents were auctioned off.
Ballast Point, Temecula: Craft beer lovers were upset in April when the San Diego-based brewer closed its brewpub at 28551 Rancho California Road due to “right-sizing.”
Marie Callender’s, everywhere: The April closing of Temecula’s pie restaurant at 29363 Rancho California Road was only a preview of what was to come. The financially troubled chain closed 19 restaurants, nearly half its locations, on Aug. 4, as its parent company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy. New owners hope to reopen some of them.
El Sarape, Riverside: This 70-year-old restaurant with its colorful neon sign closed May 25 after a rent hike on the property at 4023 Market St.
Original Roadhouse Grill, Riverside: This steakhouse at 3838 Tyler St. partially blamed homeless people in the area for its June 30 closure.
Rock & Brews, Rancho Cucamonga: This casual chain grew rapidly through franchising in recent years with personal appearances by a couple of its owners, Kiss band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. It suddenly shrunk in August when this three-year-old location at 12225 Foothill Blvd closed.
Rosa’s Cantina, Temecula: This family Mexican restaurant at 28636 Old Town Front St. closed in August a year after changing hands. It had been an Old Town mainstay since 1991.
The Salted Pig, Riverside: For two years, owner Ronaldo Fierro has been in the process of moving one of the Inland Empire’s first gastropubs from its original location at 3700 12th St. to the Main Street Pedestrian Mall. The closure finally took place on Oct. 13. Fierro, now a city council member, expects the new Salted Pig to open soon.
The Bank of Mexican Food, Temecula: This may be more than a rebranding than a closure. After more than 40 years of serving traditional Mexican cuisine at 28645 Old Town Front St., the restaurant’s owner changed its name to The Bank Plates & Pours and in November began serving a Pacific Rim-inspired menu with items such as jalapeño ginger pork.
Steak ‘n Shake, Riverside: This purveyor of burgers and milkshakes at 6231 Valley Springs Parkway didn’t just lock up in early December. Owners put up a chain link fence around the property. Yelp, however, still lists the closure as temporary.
The Nightingale, Temecula: This restaurant devoted to scratch food and curated wine will close on Dec. 31. But owner Nathan Rivera plans to move its sister restaurant, The Goat and Vine, into its space at 41923 Second St. in early February.