Beneath a farewell banner, Molly's Burgers feeds lunchtime patrons… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)
They fired up the charbroil grill for the last time Thursday at the 82-year-old Molly's Burgers stand in Hollywood.
Hundreds lined up along Vine Street for one final $3 cheeseburger-and-fries combo before a developer swallows up the 20-stool walk-up eatery to build an office tower.
"I hate to see it go," said Johnny Bee, a Hollywood technology manager who was waiting in line beneath a banner stretched across the sidewalk that proclaimed: "Thanks for the memories — Molly's last day June 30, 2011."
"The food here is good and the look of this place helped make Hollywood what it is," Bee said. "All this new commercial stuff coming in is destroying Hollywood, to be honest with you."
Opened in 1929 as part of a Richfield gas station, the lunch counter was first known as Mom's Place. Its name was changed to the Curb Charbroiler in the 1950s and to Molly's Burgers in the 1960s.
Historian Charles Fisher, who has worked with the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Heritage Coalition of Southern California, has described Molly's as "emblematic of its time and place in mid-20th-century Hollywood."
But the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency views the burger stand as an eyesore that has contributed to blight along Vine Street between Hollywood and Sunset boulevards.
As part of a makeover for the block, the agency acquired the stand and neighboring property for $5,463,000, then sold it to Santa Monica-based Pacifica Ventures for $825,000. That company plans to construct a $57-million, eight-story office building to be leased for at least five years to entertainment-oriented firms.
Pacifica Ventures has been known for developing out-of-state soundstages, which some complain have lured film production out of Hollywood.
Redevelopment officials initially offered $120,000 to help Molly's Burgers relocate. But owner Kiok Yi retained an attorney, Robert P. Silverstein, who managed to increase that amount to $1.1 million. The redevelopment agency will contribute $400,000 and Pacifica Ventures the additional $700,000, according to a settlement agreement.
As part of the settlement, the stand had to close by July 1.
Yi and her sons, 19-year-old James and 26-year-old Jake, are now searching for a new spot to move to. "From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your appetites and support. . . . We will truly miss seeing your hungry smiles each and every day," they said in goodbye cards given to customers Thursday.
The Yi family has owned Molly's for 13 years. Longtime customers applauded Yi and her sons when they paused briefly to pose near the grill for a photograph.
"I was very sad when I read that they were going to have to leave. But when I heard about the settlement, I felt better," said Hollywood film and television writer Tia Ayers, a frequent patron who was one of those waiting to place her burger order. "I don't go to chain places for fast food."
Julie Mills was visiting Molly's for the first time. "There should be room for places like this here. This is what makes Los Angeles, Los Angeles," said Mills, a personal assistant who also volunteers at Social Services at Blessed Sacrament Inc., a Hollywood organization that assists the homeless.
The Yi family contributed all proceeds from Thursday's closing-day sales to the nonprofit group.
At day's end, when the grill was shut down and the Molly's cash register was emptied, some $2,500 had been collected for Hollywood's homeless. And all the leftover beef patties, buns and thin-cut potatoes were donated to the social services group too.