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Ruby’s Diner at end of Huntington Beach Pier serves its last shake, but a new eatery may take its place

A long line for takeout at Ruby's Diner at the pier in Huntington Beach on Friday.
On the last day of operation, a long line for takeout formed at Ruby’s Diner at the pier in Huntington Beach on Friday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The iconic Ruby’s Diner at the end of the Huntington Beach Pier, which has been serving beachgoers since 1996, had its last day of operation Friday before closing permanently.

The location had been struggling in recent years, filing for bankruptcy in 2018.

Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr said Friday that the lease of the building, which is owned by the city of Huntington Beach, has been acquired by a group led by Alexander Leff as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

“He has experience operating other restaurants, including one on Malibu Pier,” Carr said. “He’s looking to develop a seafood-themed restaurant.”

City spokeswoman Catherine Jun said Leff is expected to start the permitting process soon, and it is expected to take four to six months.

Carr said as far she knew, there weren’t plans to change the building architecture, including the red-tile roof.

Ruby’s took over the spot from the End Cafe, which was destroyed during the great storm of 1988 and eventually rebuilt. Ruby’s was a favorite in Surf City for its location, prices and retro-styled surfing decorations.

Other Orange County Ruby’s locations, including one on the Balboa Pier and two restaurants on Coast Highway in Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, respectively, are expected to remain open.

“We’re not going anywhere,” said David Saighani, the general manager of the Ruby’s on Balboa Pier. “My phones are ringing. Everybody thinks we’re closing too, but we’re not going anywhere.”

By lunchtime Friday, dozens of people were lined up at the Huntington Beach Pier location to purchase one last burger, fries or the restaurant’s famous shakes.

From left, Kayden Foley, her mother, Katrina Foley and Foley's sister Kailee Groscost, all from Huntington Beach.
From left, Kayden Foley, her mother, Katrina Foley, and Foley’s sister, Kailee Groscost, all from Huntington Beach, enjoy their lunch on the last day of operation at Ruby’s Diner at the pier in Huntington Beach on Friday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Friends Lacey Shaylor and Kim Vanderwolk, both 27 and longtime Huntington Beach residents, said the news that Ruby’s was closing came suddenly.

“My whole childhood is some version of Ruby’s, whether that’s getting just a shake or eating a bunch of food,” Vanderwolk said. “Anybody who goes to the beach ends up at Ruby’s. We were talking about how we remember a specific order from our childhood. I’m going to get chicken strips and shakes [today] ... that’s what I used to get.”

Jon Saavedra of Westminster came Friday with his girlfriend, Kayla Simms, who said working at the Ruby’s in Huntington Beach was her first job.

“We wanted to come down and say goodbye,” Saavedra said. “It’s a little nostalgic for us. It kind of feels like a piece of the city’s closing, you know?”

Customers place their order at the Ruby's on the Huntington Beach Pier on Friday.
(Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)

Jessica Ogo of Costa Mesa said she had her first date with her eventual husband, Donny, at the Huntington Beach Ruby’s in 1997. He ended up proposing to her at the end of the pier, just behind the restaurant, on Dec. 24, 2004.

She said she was sad that the Ruby’s, which had the Jan & Dean’s Tiki Lounge on the second floor, would be shutting its doors.

“I think it’s just one more thing that’s kind of changing,” Ogo said. “Those of us that have been here since we were born, it’s kind of sad to see all of the things that are going. Obviously, we welcome change, but it’s a bummer that a few things aren’t making it.”

Carr said she planned to go to Ruby’s late Friday afternoon to order — what else? — a shake.

“It is bittersweet to see them leave,” she said. “At the same time, I look forward to the new restaurant that’s going to be opening the next chapter for Huntington Beach, quite honestly.”

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