The woman who ran one of America's most famous diners for 55 years has blamed the pandemic, corporate overheads and California's minimum wage hike as it shut its doors for the last time.

Marilyn Leviton, 91, opened Arby's on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard in 1969 and its 10-gallon hat sign became a landmark on the strip drawing in millions of customers for a taste of its roast beef sandwich.

But diners were greeted with a sign reading 'Farewell Hollywood. TY for 55 great years', when they arrived this morning as the iconic diner became the latest victim of the blight ravaging America's restaurant industry.

'I'm awfully sorry that it came to this,' she told KTLA. 'I think we did a good job for 55 years.'

Marilyn was a 34-year-old elementary school teacher when she and her husband Mike moved with their three children from Skokie, Illinois, to take a gamble on the new business.

The franchise was just five years old but the site at 5920 Sunset Blvd was close to several major film studios and the restaurant was the only one on the street to offer a view of the iconic Hollywood sign.

It quickly found itself featuring as a backdrop to movies and TV shows and served as a location for the Emmy nominated Baskets with Zach Galifianakis.

It celebrated its 50th anniversary in January 2019 serving its trademark roast beef sandwich at its original 79 cents, but the sun was about to set on the family run restaurant.

'Truth is, I think it was the pandemic that did us in,' Marilyn said. 'I really feel we would have closed during the pandemic except for the federal loans.

'Arby's is demanding more technical equipment which we couldn't afford and I don't think the $20 an hour wage increase helped either.'

A law signed by California's Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom in September last year increased fast-food workers' minimum wages to $20-an-hour at chains with more than 60 locations in the US.

That was a 25 percent increase on the standard minimum wage of $16-an-hour in California, which itself only came into effect in January.

The move has sparked fury from restaurant owners and almost 10,000 positions across chains from Pizza Hut to Burger King have been cut since the law came into effect on April 1, according to a report from a trade group in the state.

On top of that, chains have been shuttering restaurants - including beloved Mexican chain Rubio's Coastal Grill, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month and closed 48 locations in the state.

'California businesses have been under total attack and total assault for years,' Tom Manzo, the president of The California Business and Industrial Alliance told Fox Business.

'It's just another law that puts businesses in further jeopardy.'

The Alliance took out an advert in the style of a mock obituary to highlight the damage they say has been done to some of the industry's favorite brands

Buts restaurants across the US have been struggling to attract former diners back since the pandemic as they increasingly succumb to food delivery services.

Red Lobster abruptly closed 93 of its 700-odd restaurants on May 13, days before for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

And court documents suggest there are another 135 Red Lobster outlets that bosses say will keep losing money if leases stay as they are.

Applebee's closed 46 outlets last year and has announced plans for at least 25 more this year.

And Denny's expects to follow up the closure of 57 restaurants with up to 20 more this year.

News of Arby's exit sparked an outpouring of nostalgia from Californians, including from actor Dean England who worked on Baskets.

'Saw that sign so many times as a kid,' he wrote on Facebook. 'It was then kind of surreal getting cast and filming in Hollywood while playing the head of Arby's HR. I sure do hope that sign is saved.'

'One of the first places I ate when I moved here,' added Samantha Lloyd Gordon. 'Starving actor literally.'

'Let me guess…in its place will go yet another high-rise condo building that will remain largely unoccupied?' predicted David Silver.

'That sign should be donated to The Neon Museum in Las Vegas,' suggested Melissa Jean.

'Glad I saw it in person.'

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2024-06-17T23:15:08Z dg43tfdfdgfd