Loyal customers of This Must Be the Place were already seated for lunch or getting drinks from the bar at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the last day of business for the downtown restaurant and live-music venue.
Among the first to arrive were Lemont Trustee Jeanette Virgilio and her husband, Brock Reinhard.
“It’s sad,” Virgilio said. “It’s always sad when a business closes.
“We’re here to say goodbye ... [the owners] are sweethearts,” she said.
The restaurant, known for helping out with charity events, opened in downtown Lemont in 2008.
Bill Moffett, co-owner of The Place, said Saturday that it was “time to move on.” He and his business partner, Dan Farnesi, had wanted to try a venue for live music in town, Moffett said.
Framed album covers decorate the walls of the business. “Those are mine,” Moffett said. His collection gives a nod to classic rock, and rhythm and blues.
Employee David Aguirre—whose duties included cooking, washing dishes and sometimes waiting tables—said the business “was a perfect place to work."
"It was a blast working here,” he said.
Aguirre said he thinks a lack of appreciation for live music spelled demise for the restaurant.
Two more customers arriving for lunch Saturday said they might be back for dinner.
Joseph Barnard and Gail Kovesky said they came to The Place for lunch four or five times a week for good food and a “very cordial” staff.
Kovesky said they first tried The Place right after it opened.
“I like to support businesses locally,” she said. “I’m really going to miss this place.”
As to why businesses struggle downtown, Barnard said maybe lack of parking is at fault. He added that the downtown “is hard to get
Reinhard said he thinks “it costs too much to have a business in Cook County.”
Moffett, who runs another business, said he has no plans to open up a restaurant somewhere else. Both he and Farnesi are masonry contractors.
“I built this place,” Moffett said, explaining that the building once housed industrial space. Double doors 12 feet high would open in the front so trucks could back in. A motorcycle shop was next door.
The interior now has red-brick arches, stone walls and dark-wood furnishings with a stage for bands at the back.
In February, This Must Be the Place received the Lemont Area Chamber of Commerce's first-ever Business of the Year award.
The business hosted many fundraisers and contributed 10 percent of Tuesday proceeds to charity.
In a message to patrons, Moffett and Farnesi said they had “made a lot of new friends and shared many good times together.”
For the final goodbye, seven bands were scheduled to play Saturday night during “The Last Waltz/All-Star Jam Session."