Norm Linnebur on Friday afternoon sat at a deserted bar cluttered with empty plates and other remnants of his family business.
Two customers opened the front door to The Hut Restaurant & Lounge halfway before he apologetically yelled it was closed. Linnebur said he’s had to break the news to many unsuspecting customers since he replaced a “closed for remodeling” sign with the word “closed” in the front window on October 15. That was when he learned a family lease dispute had dampened plans to rent it to another manager.
On October 13, the place was packed for a party to celebrate Linnebur’s 15-year tenure as restaurant chef and owner, said Terry Bonson, the restaurant’s Pepsi supplier. Brad Olson, owner of Cadillac Jacks Saloon & Grill, was going to rent the 1400 S.W. Dorion Ave. establishment from Linnebur, who was retiring.
Linnebur’s parents, Paul and Darlene Linnebur, opened the restaurant in 1977, and he took over the business in 1997. Linnebur said he wasn’t comfortable releasing specifics on the lease dispute.
Linnebur said twelve employees — who were going to work for Olson at the renovated restaurant — lost their jobs. Olson had already ordered new equipment, hired a chef, and planned to hire three additional workers, said Bonson, whose wife, Barbara ran karaoke at The Hut since 2000.
Bonson said Olson was going to transform the restaurant, famous for Linnebur’s prime rib, into a haven for homemade Italian cuisine. Linnebur had to cancel those plans when he learned of the lease dispute. Linnebur has since been busy removing paperwork and personal odds and ends from the family restaurant.
After Olson took over the Bosons planned to bring local musicians the restaurant in addition to their karaoke nights, which they’ve since moved to Cadillac Jacks, at 1703 S.W. Emigrant Ave. He said the restaurant, which attracted customers from as far as Walla Walla and La Grande, will be missed by many.
“For Barbara and I, it felt like home,” he said.
Contact Chris Rizer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0836.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.