No signs offered explanation for Lil B's abrupt closure.
  • No signs offered explanation for Lil B's abrupt closure.
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Lil B’s Urban Eatery at 2611 El Cajon Boulevard in North Park has closed down. All the windows are covered. Their listed phone number doesn’t answer.

More than a week ago when I ate there, a posted sign read "cash-only" because they were “changing credit card processing companies.” Also, the restaurant’s tall, colorful sign was no longer rotating.

Lil B's "cash only" sign

Before Lil B's started up, the restaurant’s predecessor was Brians' American Eatery (now the locale of Great Maple) at 1451 Washington Street in Hillcrest. It was called Brians' because its two owners were Brian Stout and Brian Savage.

Partner Brian Stout (he was “little Brian”) opened Lil B's in October 2012, after major renovation of a failed, longtime eatery called Johnny's R Family Restaurant. It was originally owned by Johnny Raizian and remained open for about 30 years under the same name.

Tootie Thomas, president of the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association, wasn’t sure why the restaurant failed, but “heard it was having problems.” Thomas thinks the building will probably remain a restaurant, but opined that a better concept would be “mixed-use” (a restaurant with residential units above). Thomas had not yet talked with the property owners.

Edwin Lohr, board president of the North Park Community Association, told the Reader: “All I can say is people I know liked the food, atmosphere, and people of Lil B's. I know to many, it will be missed.”

“The best thing about Lil B's was the tasty food,” said Palm Springs resident Steve Brown, a regular customer for years at Lil B's, and at the defunct Brians' cafe. “It wasn't gourmet, but you never left hungry. I guess tastes have changed more towards lighter, healthier fare.”

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Comments

swell Aug. 15, 2016 @ 9:56 p.m.

Seems to me it once specialized in fresh pies baked in a large oven just inside the doors. Possibly called 'House of Pies'. That was before the Chicken Pie Shop moved in nearby and when Bob's Big Boy and Dairy Queen were still across the street. Maybe 1975. It's a dynamic neighborhood and it's good to have David keeping an eye on it.

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dwbat Aug. 16, 2016 @ 5:50 a.m.

Thanks. Yes, it was House of Pies once. "The Boulevard" is moving toward better days. Renovation of the Lafayette Hotel was just the beginning. The shutdown of the Palomar Casino with arrests for illegal activity was a positive development. Two apartment projects at Texas and Howard are underway. A block-long apt. complex at El Cajon and Florida should start construction soon, across the street from the new Dunn Edwards Paints. That rundown, graffiti-tagged spot sure needed that boost.

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lprimavera Aug. 16, 2016 @ 1:15 p.m.

Actually, the closing of Palomar Casino has had horrible consequences. It was the constant flow of lunch and dinner orders keeping the surrounding restaurants afloat. Just ask the restaurant owners. And secondly, the illegal activity had more to do with a notorious sportsbooker, who happened to mention - on a wire tap - that he went there often in an attempt to launder money. But have no fear, Palomar will be back, eventually, with new staff from Las Vegas.

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dwbat Aug. 16, 2016 @ 3:48 p.m.

What makes you think it will be back? Palomar was operating with a license. The original owners had retired, and tried to pass on the license to their daughter, which was reportedly illegal under California law. It could NOT be transferred. Without a license from the State, it cannot reopen. Forget the bookie. The manager of Palomar was indicted by the Feds; he hasn't gone to trial yet. Besides alleged money laundering and other illegal activity, there was alleged providing of prostitutes for their high-roller customers. This is all laid out in the indictments.

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dwbat Aug. 16, 2016 @ 5:01 p.m.

"with a license" should have been: "without a license"

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Visduh Aug. 16, 2016 @ 8:53 a.m.

Yeah, it was that pie shop with the pink color scheme in 1970 when I first arrived here. That same area of El Cajon Blvd had the Bit of Sweden smorgasbord restaurant. In the early 70's it had great food, and had lines out the door. But by the late 70's it wasn't doing so well, the food was sitting on the line until it was stale, and business was way down. When it finally closed, I have no recollection of what replaced it.

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dwbat Aug. 16, 2016 @ 9:45 a.m.

I wasn't here then. But El Cajon blvd. had so many eateries, motels, gas stations, etc. back when it was a major highway to/from San Diego. I just read this on sandiegohistory.org: "1951. Jack in the Box gets its start. Robert O. Peterson opens first drive-through restaurant at 63rd Street and El Cajon Boulevard."

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Visduh Aug. 16, 2016 @ 2:54 p.m.

Going back even farther in time, Peterson was behind the Oscar's chain of drive-ins. That name was resurrected in the 1990's and was doing well for a time. More recently it changed hands a couple times, closed many outlets, and basically folded. Some former franchisees now go by the name of O's American Kitchen.

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dwbat Aug. 16, 2016 @ 5:07 p.m.

Will be interesting to see what happens next at the Lil B's site.

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Ponzi Aug. 16, 2016 @ 6:59 p.m.

Been here since 1958. When people bought their cars on El Cajon Blvd. There won't be any card room resurrections. The gamblers are directed to Native American casinos.

But I do suspect someday, there will be gambling at the Grant Hotel. Just a hunch. Because $$$ talks and little card rooms walk.

I remember the House of Pies. Also a Denny's I used to have to pay for my meal in advance because the drunks that filled the Denny's after the gay bar closed had a habit of skipping their bills. That was a bar called El Diablo. I was a teenager then, and we enjoyed watching what was then a spectacle flow out of that lesbian bar. Now-a-days, I call them friends and neighbors.

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dwbat Aug. 17, 2016 @ 7:19 a.m.

I have to disagree that the US Grant (owned by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation) would ever have a card casino, since they already have the Sycuan Casino. Also, I don't think the State is issuing new licenses for card rooms.

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Ponzi Aug. 19, 2016 @ 9:20 p.m.

I think their purchase of the U.S. Grant is a long term plan. There will be gambling in downtown San Diego. Mark my word.

I write this from Philadelphia tonight, where there is are several Harrah's casinos, in a state where wine and spirits are still sold in state stores. Although Costco is lobbying to change that.

Gambling, it appears, has more supporters and power than booze. Yes, gambling will come to downtown San Diego because of money. Pot, booze, gambling... that seems to be a freight train nobody is going to stop.

And for Christ sake, if Trump can be a serious candidate, anything can happen anymore.

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dwbat Aug. 19, 2016 @ 10:21 p.m.

I think the City Council would fight any attempts to allow a cardroom in downtown San Diego. No new cardroom has opened in San Diego in many years. Also, I would be surprised if Palomar reopened its doors. So specifically, how do you see a downtown gambling establishment would be accomplished? [By the ghost of Wyatt Earp?]

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swell Aug. 17, 2016 @ 7:19 a.m.

Ah yes, El Diablo ... Every night the streets around there filled with pickup trucks- the favored mode of transport for the lesbians. At 2am they filled Denny's with a cheerful burst of chaos. Now they mostly hang out at the Gossip Grill in Hillcrest. A drive along University after dark will bring the sounds of revelry from both sides of the street.

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dwbat Aug. 17, 2016 @ 3:50 p.m.

To Susan Mullaney on FB: Do you really expect to get homemade gravy at an inexpensive diner? And why was gravy so important to you? I never ate any meal at Lil B's that required any gravy.

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dwbat Aug. 19, 2016 @ 8:58 a.m.

To Diane Smilari Belanger on FB: What days/times did you go there? I didn't find bad service when I went there. Did you mention it to the manager? That's always a good idea.

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Steve Horvath Aug. 23, 2016 @ 10:59 p.m.

I always had great service at Lil B's. Alex I will miss you. i know one waitress is working in Old Town; we're going to visit her. Going to miss the place.

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dwbat Aug. 24, 2016 @ 5:47 a.m.

You are not alone. A whole lot of people are going to miss it. When Brians' closed down in Hillcrest, most of the staff went to work at Lil B's four years ago. Let's hope they have found new jobs.

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dwbat Dec. 31, 2016 @ 7:05 a.m.

LGBT Weekly has an article on what combination of things caused the restaurant's failure, and reports that former employees are still owed unpaid wages. That's shameful.

http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/12/22/lil-bs-workers-all-but-resigned-to-alleged-pay-theft/

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