After 28 years serving the Bakersfield community, Cafe Med will close its doors. Owner Meir Brown said they hope to remain open until Wednesday.
"We're very concerned we'll have to close sooner because of creditors," Brown said. "We're hoping everybody understands."
Brown is committed to honoring existing commitments at the Stockdale Highway restaurant, including a standing order for a company buying pies for its employees, a large-party dinner reservation this weekend and Thanksgiving to-go orders.
"We want to try to close as many as those obligations as we can."
With planned holiday catering and other loose ends, Brown said he's determined to honor what he can, even if that means completing orders in another kitchen after the restaurant closes.
"Right now I just have to go through this storm, catering through the end of the year. We may have to direct some to restaurants who are good friends of ours.
"Everything is so uncertain at this point. Our employees have been incredible and supportive. It's devastating to do this so close to the holidays."
Cafe Med employees about 50 people, with seasonal holiday work pushing the number closer to 70.
Brown said he couldn't overcome the decline in business amid rising operating costs, which included the minimum wage increase, rent and utilities, which hit $8,500 per month in the summer.
"We've fought for the last 10 years. ... The battle cannot be fought anymore. I gave it my last drop of blood and last tear."
He said the last month has been especially trying.
"Problems started mounting. I hoped that business would improve but it became more and more obvious (that we would close)," he said.
Brown has long been a part of the local dining scene, opening Cafe Med in 1991 at its first location, at Auburn Street and Fairfax Road.
With no restaurant experience, the former dairy executive started with two dishwashers and two servers.
Business picked up and Brown learned on the job, moving the restaurant from the eastside to a spot on California Avenue briefly before moving to Stockdale Highway in 1996.
He built up that space over two decades, adding a wine room, banquet area and the Gourmet Shoppe deli.
In recent years, Brown had experimented with offerings, including Sunday brunch, holiday buffets, to-go family dinners, a pasta night featuring Grana Padano cheese and a satellite location at Rio Bravo Country Club, opened briefly earlier this year.
When talking about the restaurant's 25th anniversary in 2016, he warned that it takes a special sort to survive the dining industry.
“Think very carefully before you go in. Unless you have a real passion and endurance, it’s not for the faint of heart.”
But even now, Brown is down but not out.
"I hope in the future to be able to serve this community in another capacity, hopefully in the food industry."
Any future plans aside, he remains focused on his top priorities: "It's not about me anymore. It's about our employees and our customers."
He encouraged people to come out this weekend to support the business and enjoy roots rock band Lonely Avenue on Friday night and bluegrass act Tom Corbett Trio on Saturday, both performing from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. The restaurant is at 4809 Stockdale Highway.