Alfredo's Granada restaurant in Burbank closed after being in business for 39 years.

Alfredo's Granada restaurant in Burbank closed after being in business for 39 years. (Roger Wilson/Staff photographer)

Alfredo's Granada, a Burbank restaurant, bar and civic institution for nearly 40 years, closed down Saturday night, to the sorrow and surprise of longtime patrons.

Owner Alex Bernal said a host of legal, business and family problems forced the Victory Boulevard restaurant to serve its last meal. He said the business will file for bankruptcy shortly, with the building to be sold to the highest bidder.

"It's sad," Bernal said Sunday. "I worked here for 24 years. My father built this from scratch."

Alfredo Bernal launched the Mexican restaurant in 1971, in the location of the former Sargents Restaurant. Though Bernal died in 2003, other family members have kept the Mexican cuisine, busy bar and weekly specials going.

On Saturday afternoon, regulars who had heard rumors that the Granada was closing hurried down for a final meal. After the doors locked at 5 p.m., they used their cell phones to guide friends to the back door or waited by the front entrance to unlock the door when friends appeared.

Sandy Lucas walked out with a souvenir menu and decades of memories, such as the time 31 years ago that she went into labor while enjoying a drink and a cigarette at Alfredo's.

Inside, her son Chris Lucas, 31, shared a meal with family and friends.

"It's pretty sad," he said. "I've been coming here my whole life. I was here before I was born."

Bill Jones, a regular for 35 years, was one of several who said Alfredo's Granada was like the bar in the TV show "Cheers." The regulars knew each other, appreciated the service and the food – "best margaritas in the world" said Steve Cothran as he sat at the bar Saturday afternoon – and kept coming back.

The event that led to the closure was well known to Jones and others.

"Ever since Alfredo died, everybody is fighting for control," he said.

Alex Bernal said the restaurant recently settled a suit by a former employee alleging labor law violations, and that another one is looming. He claimed the restaurant had done nothing wrong, but the suits proved costly. He also said family members disagreed over the future of the restaurant, and the recession has slowed business. He said 30 employees will be looking for new jobs.

Fredy Torres worked at the restaurant for 14 years, starting in 1977, and was on hand Saturday night for the last farewell.

"I haven't worked here for 19 years, and still I see the same people here," he said. "It's like family. It's very sad."