Nine O’Clock Town

Dear John Linn,

I was simply delighted when I recently read that you and your wife Renee are planning to open up a new Linn’s restaurant in downtown San Luis Obispo. While some skeptics have called this move half-baked, I applaud your decision. The location at Marsh and Chorro has great potential. Your culinary reputation is well-known.

As they said in that Kevin Costner baseball movie, “If you build it, they will come and eat pie” (Or was that the John Candy baseball movie?). Regardless, I’m writing, John, because of something you mentioned in last week’s newspaper article. And I quote:

“There may be a market for us to offer a late-night snack. Instead of rolling up the sidewalks at 5:30 p.m., let’s be open when the customers want us.” 

Are you kidding, John? Stay open late in a town where adults must think they’ll mysteriously turn into pumpkins if they’re caught out past 10 p.m.? This isn’t LA, my friend. Don’t you know the three Golden Rules of downtown San Luis Obispo?

Rule Number One: Open late. Close early.

Rule Number Two:  Only college kids roam the downtown at night and they never have any money.

Rule Number Three: Always, always, always have dinner BEFORE the movie.

We recently violated that last rule, driving in from Los Osos on a Saturday night to catch a movie downtown. We were hungry, but decided we could wait to eat until after the movie.

Bad idea.

At 10 p.m. we began our search downtown, bouncing from restaurant to restaurant, in search of something, anything, to eat, anything to avoid having to break the emergency glass and settle for fast food.

Charlie’s—closed. Angelo’s—closed. Golden China—closed. Tsurugi’s—closed. Frank’s—closed. DaVinci’s—closed. Only Hudson’s was open. As you know, John, Hudson’s is a great place to eat—except late on Saturday night, when you’re 40 years old and you don’t want to feel like the faculty chaperone at the high school prom.

I expressed my frustration to the hostess at DaVinci’s as she politely informed me that we would not be served that night. Are there no restaurants that stay open late on a Saturday night?

“That’s why they call it SLO town,” the hostess replied. “Have you tried Hudson’s?”

John, the experience made me hungry for a place we could go in town after a movie, or a visit to Earthling, or a concert at the Mission. What does it say about a town when the only place open all night is Kinko’s? Do restaurants close early in San Luis Obispo because there are no people, or are there no people downtown because the restaurants close early?

So when I heard about a possible late-night offering from Linn’s, I got excited (when one lives in Los Osos, one gets excited rather easily. Our sidewalks don’t roll up at 5:30 p.m.. We don’t have any sidewalks in Los Osos). How about this, John? As that other famous food expert Jonathan Swift would say, I offer a modest proposal.

Try keeping your new San Luis Obispo restaurant open late just on Fridays and Saturdays—for me, that means until 11 p.m. Just an extra hour longer, a lousy 60 minutes on weekends for us quasi-night owls to enjoy one of the last remaining beautiful downtowns in all of California. Not to mention the great Linn’s pies.

The people will come, John. If you serve it, they will come. Save me a table. I’ll see you after the movie.

Your friend,


San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune (1995)

Published by Dave Congalton

Writer. Radio Host. Screenwriter. Enjoying the Good Life on California's Central Coast.

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