City Beat: A restaurant's closure leaves diners in tears

City Beat: A restaurant's closure leaves diners in tears
Kit Kollen, left, and friend Susan Romo enjoy each others company and a bowl of soup, while Coco Carson, 5, has macaroni and cheese as her brother Nicolas, 8, dines on a bacon cheeseburger at Victor's Square Restaurant on Bronson Avenue in Hollywood on April 23. The restaurant closed last month. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

People cried when they learned that Victor's Square Restaurant was closing.

They read the sign on the front door and the tears started to fall.

The Hollywood restaurant had long been a neighborhood gathering place. In the early days, after it opened in 1990, people often had to wait in line.

It was a comfy place, with big tan booths and a menu that went on forever -- an interesting mix of traditional deli items and Italian food. Owner Bill Gotti was born in the Bronx and raised in Brooklyn. His meatballs were a Gotti family recipe. He came up with the formula for the much-loved matzo ball soup.

Gotti is the younger brother of the late Mafia boss John Gotti, though it wasn't something everyone knew.

What they did know is that Bill Gotti told them to make themselves comfortable and meant it, that he learned their names, cradled their babies and made them feel at home.

He decided to close, Gotti said, because business had been slow in recent years, ever since the start of the Great Recession. Regulars got a little less regular. He knew he had to renovate to attract new people. But when he asked to extend his 30-year lease to be sure he could recoup the money he'd spend, he was refused, he said. He knew the new rent -- when his lease ran out -- would be way too high.

Many of those who came to say goodbye in the last days hadn't been in very often of late. They acknowledged their role in what had happened. They looked around the space where over the years they had spent so much time and knew they might not again experience its like.

Read more about the ups and downs of Victor's Square Restaurant in my story, on Monday's front page. Make sure to watch the video.

To see a version of the story I told using photos on Twitter, keep reading here.

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