Waitress Paula Kidby, left, listens to Jim Whiting as he compliments the restaurant on their desserts at Riverside Cafe in Burbank on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.

Waitress Paula Kidby, left, listens to Jim Whiting as he compliments the restaurant on their desserts at Riverside Cafe in Burbank on Wednesday, August 22, 2012. (Cheryl Guerrero/Staff photographer / August 24, 2012)

After almost 20 years in Burbank, the Riverside Café will serve its final meal on Sunday as it closes because of a dwindling number of customers, and because the owner says he can no longer afford to invest in the failing business.

Matt Peek took over ownership of the café at 1221 W. Riverside Drive in October 2009 from its original owners, Paula and Michael Kidby, who continue working as customer service manager and chef, respectively.

But Peek said that since the recession hit, the restaurant has seen fewer and fewer patrons, particularly from nearby movie studios during lunchtime.

“Sales have gone down for way too long,” said Peek, who was a waiter at the restaurant when he purchased it. He had saved money from some successful acting jobs and asked another investor to also help bolster the business financially.

Peek said closing the café is a difficult decision, but he has lost too much money and needs to walk away from the venture.

Early on, he thought the café might turn around somehow and his 6-year-old daughter would work there someday.

“I’d hoped she’d be a waitress,” he said.

In its heyday, the restaurant was packed every night, said Michael Kidby, adding that celebrities such as Dick Van Dyke, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have eaten there.

Before buying the business in 1993, he had been working with horses in the nearby Rancho area and saw the 600-square-foot restaurant go through a variety of owners who ran hamburger joints.

Michael Kidby wanted to serve more than burgers, so he leased the space and expanded the menu to include several favorites from his native London, England.

For Thanksgiving, the Kidbys would close the restaurant to the public and invite regular customers for a dinner that might include cooked goose, apple soup and chestnut-and-bacon stuffing.

Every Thursday, there would be different “special” available. The final “special” included pork tenderloin stuffed with apricots and wrapped in bacon, along with fondant potatoes, which are cooked in butter and chicken stock.

Michael Kidby, who has been named Best Chef in Burbank several times by the Burbank Leader, said he plans to return to working with horses and wants to land a cooking position at another restaurant.

He and his wife are also working on a Riverside Café Cookbook that will feature many of the unique dishes they’ve served over the years.

Paula Kidby said she’s sad to see the Riverside Café close its doors.

“Some compared it to Cheers,” she said. “We’ve met a lot of great people. It’s going to be a tough day on Sunday."

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