Why the family behind this iconic Arby’s finally decided to hang up its hat

The iconic derby hat sign from Arby's on Sunset Boulevard
The hat sign at Arby’s on Sunset Boulevard was well known. Its future is uncertain.
(Bryan A’Hearn / Los Angeles Times)
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The Arby’s restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, famous for its enormous, neon-clad hat sign, has shuttered its doors after 55 years. Its last day of operation was Friday.

On Monday, at the back of the lot, Gary Husch — general manager of the Arby’s and son-in-law of its original owner — was carting out trash and caught a reporter staring at the bones of the drive-through menu.

“There’s nothing there anymore, huh?” he said.

The menu was already a polyptych of long, fluorescent tubes. The Arby’s marquee, sprawled with advertisements for the chain’s affordable, slow-roasted beef sandwiches a few days ago, now reads: “Farewell Hollywood. TY for 55 great years.”

“You know, they’re not making those signs anymore,” Husch said. “It was the 150th Arby’s location ever opened.”


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Since its opening in January 1969, the Hollywood Arby’s has had a single owner, Marilyn Leviton, who is 91 years old and Husch’s mother-in-law.

Husch said that the Arby’s was simply no longer sustainable. He pointed to a combination of pandemic fallout in a changing neighborhood, rising food costs and the recent law that raised the minimum wage of fast-food workers in California.

“The customer count has gone down over the last few years. A lot of the offices around this area are empty now, and we’re just not getting the same foot traffic we did before,” Husch said. “With inflation, food costs have gone way up and the $20-an-hour minimum wage has been the nail in the coffin.”

An Arby's in Hollywood is boarded up.
The Hollywood Arby’s is already boarded up and plastered wheat-pasted poster art.
(Bryan A’Hearn / Los Angeles Times)

Leviton was active in the business till the very end, he added.

“Truth is, I think it was the pandemic that did us in,” she told KTLA News recently. “I really feel we would have closed during the pandemic [if it weren’t] for the federal loans.”

Years ago the family owned, in part, two other Arby’s: one in Santa Monica and another on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Those two have since shuttered. Workers at the Hollywood Arby’s were let go when they came to work on Friday, Husch said.


For the record:

5:51 p.m. June 18, 2024A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the family owned the property where the business stands. That phrase has been removed.

The family had not yet determined any sale or the future of the derby hat sign. The building is already boarded up with plywood and plastered with wheat-pasted art posters.

The giant, neon-lined hat, which would not feel out of place on Fremont Street in Las Vegas, is now flanked by shiny high-rises and film and television studios, including Netflix.

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It has had occasional brushes with celebrity.

Jerry Seinfeld and Seth Rogen visited the shop in an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” while musing on fame. In 2016, Patton Oswalt famously dined on its outside tables after winning an Emmy Award.

“His wife had just passed away,” Husch said. “He was just sitting, and, I believe, thinking about his wife. … There’s a lot of good memories here.”