San Jose loses another beloved restaurant
After almost 20 years, Evergreen Inn & Pub in San Jose closed its doors. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    The Evergreen community has lost a beloved restaurant after almost 20 years due to unplanned hardships caused by the pandemic and family health.

    In a letter taped to the restaurant’s door, Evergreen Inn & Pub owners Hector and Emily Lopez said they were closing their cherished restaurant with heavy hearts and thanked their loyal customers. Their son, Eric Lopez, who worked at the restaurant since he was 13, said financial issues and his father’s health led to the closure on May 29. The restaurant lost its customer base during the COVID-19 pandemic and it never recovered, the son said. They also lost two cooks. 

    Hector Lopez cooked many of the dishes from scratch, like chili verde and biscuits with gravy, while Emily Lopez chatted with customers when she wasn’t doing office work, Eric Lopez said. 

    “We’ve spent the last two decades building a business we are proud of by doing what we love most—making others happy,” the owners said in the letter.

    Hector Lopez emigrated at age 15 from Mexico. He worked at an IHOP as a dishwasher, then as a cook at Larry’s Country Inn and Uncle John’s Pancake House before purchasing Southern Kitchen on Monterey Highway in 1991. He purchased Evergreen Inn & Pub in August 2003, where he worked as a cook when it was Larry’s Country Inn.

    Hector and Emily Lopez realized the American Dream together, coming from a small, impoverished town in Mexico. 

    “My dad came from nothing. My mom did, too,” their son told San José Spotlight.

    Eric Lopez is proud of what his parents accomplished. But with his father’s pending surgery and the younger Lopez addressing his own health issues, the family’s hope to reopen the restaurant won’t happen anytime soon.

    The family also owns the Elegant Pub next door. On weekends, the pub’s business will still spill over into the restaurant space with DJs and karaoke. But the Evergreen Inn will no longer cater private parties in the restaurant.

    With a dance floor surrounded by booths, the restaurant hosted many private parties. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    Dennis King, executive director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Silicon Valley, said the loss of a 20-year-old restaurant is significant for everyone.

    “Much of our community’s vitality in part is defined by the small neighborhood businesses, particularly restaurants,” he said.

    King said small businesses are still struggling to recover. Restaurants faced challenges during and following the pandemic, with some closing for good due to a loss of customers and workers. 

    “Their loss is a clear warning that challenges of small businesses as a direct result of COVID are still with us,” he told San José Spotlight. “It takes a long time to recover from such a deficit for a small business and very often they’re not able to make it. We will mourn the loss of their contributions to the community.”

    King said small businesses should take advantage of resources San Jose offers, including help with rent

    “We hope other small businesses can take heart they don’t have to deal with whatever they’re dealing with by themselves,” he said.

    Jose Rincon, assistant general manager of Winchester Auto Parts near the closed restaurant, said he enjoyed the hearty breakfasts like bacon and eggs with country potatoes. He also appreciated the bump it gave him in weekend foot traffic. He said since the closure, the lost weekend foot traffic is noticeable.

    “With COVID, they couldn’t recoup, and (struggled) with the economy going the way it is,” he told San José Spotlight.

    Jose Rincon, assistant general manager of Winchester Auto Parts, said his business has lost foot traffic since the restaurant closed. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    Longtime customer Nancy—last name held upon request—said it’s hard for a restaurant to survive.

    “It was your place to go,” she said. “It had a lot.”

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

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