Last call for H.B.'s Rathskeller

Rathskeller owner Axel Geub knew the pub's last day was going to be busy, but he didn't expect patrons to be waiting for the doors to open that Saturday morning.

"Normally we open at 11 a.m., but there were members from the [Huntington Beach] Elks Lodge in the parking lot waiting for me at 10 in the morning," Geub said, sporting his lederhosen for the last time. "They've been drinking beer since 10 o'clock. They come over every Saturday as one of their stops. They grab a few Bitburgers and talk. Now they're asking themselves, 'Where do we go now?'."

The Hauff and Geub families, which own and operate the Rathskeller, poured their last beers and served their last bratwursts to their customers Saturday after new owners of the building decided not to offer them a new lease.

"Corporate America is taking everything away," said Mike Brisbine, one of the Elks Lodge members waiting that morning. "We don't understand it. But it is what it is. There will never be a place like this again. It will be missed."

The underground Huntington Beach pub was at capacity the entire day. As people polished off their pints, they posed and had pictures taken with Axel or Monica Geub and bought T-shirts from their 23-year-old son, Dennis, on the way out.

"It's been weird. It sucks because I grew up here," Dennis Geub said. "I don't have this place to go to anymore. But you're always on to better and bigger things. The way I see this, this may end up being a better deal. I like to stay positive about it and there's nothing else you can do."

Resident Tommy "Tear" Onal has been going to the Rathskeller for decades and has been making T-shirts for the pub for special events. The 53-year-old regular decided to make special farewell shirts and stickers pro bono as a way of saying thank you.

"It's something from out of the ordinary. It's not some bar that's the usual box with lights above ground," Onal said. "Here, you get this little home-style, unbreathable cave that somehow just worked for so many years. It's sad to see that these guys are being kicked out."

Most of the decorations in the pub had been taken down and packed or had a "sold" sticker slapped across them, adding to the somber feeling that was on everyone's mind.

Dennis Geub said his parents never ran out of beer since they've run the pub for the last 25 years for his grandparents, but last week was the first time the Rathskeller ran dry.

And the pub got close to running out again on Saturday. Dennis and his friend grabbed a few empty kegs and went on a beer run, ensuring glasses and mugs would be filled.

Edith Hauff, Axel's mother-in-law, was busily cooking bratwursts and fried potatoes in the kitchen. She reminisced about the pub's heyday, in the '80s, and how the Rathskeller used to be just as packed as Saturday.

Hauff, 77, said she'll be taking ownership of the pub's name when it closes. Her husband, Loni, who has been having heart trouble,

visited the pub Friday to say goodbye to their customers, but had to leave right away after suffering more chest pains, Hauff said.

"[Friday] was too much for him. He couldn't handle it," she said, while wiping away tears.

Axel Geub said running around the pub and filling mugs with beer helped him to momentarily forget about the inevitable. Once Saturday's festivities ended, he and his wife would have to worry about removing all the furniture by April 3.

But after that is taken care of, Geub said, he and his wife will consider taking a vacation and worry about starting their new life after that.

"We haven't had a vacation in 20 years. My wife and I worked seven days a week for 20 years," he said. "I wonder what's going to happen afterward. I don't think we'll know what to do."

Twitter: @acocarpio

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