Restaurant News & Reviews

Scrubby and Lloyd’s: Beloved SLO burger joint closes after 40 years

Some fans of Scrubby and Lloyd’s waited in line up to an hour Tuesday, Oct. 27, 1998, to get one last taste of the restaurant’s famous burgers.
Some fans of Scrubby and Lloyd’s waited in line up to an hour Tuesday, Oct. 27, 1998, to get one last taste of the restaurant’s famous burgers. Telegram-Tribune

This article was originally published Oct. 28, 1998.

After 65 years in business, the owners of Scrubby and Lloyd’s will flip their final hamburgers today.

The restaurant is being forced to close because the property at 1136 Carmel St., where the business is located, is being sold to New Times. The weekly newspaper plans to raze existing structures to build new offices.

“We have had people come in and say, ‘This is our watering hole, and we don’t know where we’re going to meet now.’ … That’s the really, really sad part,” Marilyn Pettenger, one of the owners, said Tuesday.

Steve Moss, one of New Times’ publishers, said Tuesday that the newspaper plans to expand and build its new office on the Carmel property.

“This has been in the works for months,” Moss said.

He said he hopes to close on the property by the end of this week or the beginning of next week.

The paper, he added, wants to be in its new offices by this time next year.

The restaurant’s closure marks the end of an era for the Pettenger family, which has sold hamburgers at restaurants with different names since 1933.

Scrubby and Lloyd’s, which was started in 1957 by Lloyd Pettenger and Zeta “Scrubby” Lewis, has served hamburgers to generations of San Luis Obispo residents. Lloyd’s son, Lee, took over his father’s share of the restaurant in 1972 and bought out Lewis’ share the following year.

“For a lot of customers it’s home away from home,” said Lee Pettenger, his voice trembling.

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But despite a loyal clientele devoted to the famous grilled burgers with just the right combination of ketchup and mayonnaise, the Pettengers have endured financial difficulties over the years, including a bankruptcy.

The Pettengers bought the property in 1986 from the Sebastian family of Arroyo Grande. The couple took out a balloon mortgage but were unable to make the payment when it came due in 1996.

“After 10 years we owed more than we did originally, so that was kind of a bummer,” said Lee Pettenger. “We paid $85,000 or $95,000 down, and then $1,500 a month for those 10 years.”

The property went into foreclosure, and Manuel Sebastian said that in May 1997 he gave the Pettengers a six-month lease so they would have time to find another location.

After the lease expired, the rent was on a month-to-month basis, and in all, the Pettengers have had a total of 17 additional months at the property, he said.

Sebastian added that the rent was also renegotiated so that the Pettengers were paying less than before. While he was attempting to find buyers, Sebastian said he kept the couple fully informed of the property’s status, he said.

“The Pettengers have had a good amount of time to move their business, and we wish them well. We really do,” said Sebastian.

The Pettengers have looked for new locations but said because of high rents, it was difficult to find a location that was affordable.

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Word about Scrubby and Lloyd’s closing spread quickly, and Tuesday customer descended on the restaurant at lunchtime, anxious to have a final burger.

The small beige building was packed, and people spilled out onto the sidewalk or waited in a very long line at the pickup window.

The restaurant took on a party atmosphere. Many brought cameras, taking group shots of friends in front of the landmark building. Others reminisced fondly on their Scrubby and Lloyd’s dining experiences.

Jack Mallory of Arroyo Grande ate at the restaurant four and five times a week when he was a Cal Poly student in the late 1950s. Mallory would order two hamburgers and a shake, ordering the second burger while he was eating the first.

“I remember when Lee’s dad ran it,” said Mallory, in line for a last burger. “The food was all good,” he said. “The potato salad, the beans. …”

But his favorite foods were “those two hamburgers and a shake.”

We have had people come in and say, ‘This is our watering hole, and we don’t know where we’re going to meet now.’ … That’s the really, really sad part.

Marilyn Pettenger, one of the owners of Scrubby and Lloyd’s

Warren Conklin, a former San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge who now lives in the Bay Area, was in line with his wife, Joey, on Tuesday. The Conklins were in the county visiting when they heard about the restaurant’s impending closure.

“He brought me here before we were married 35 years ago,” said Mrs. Conklin. “We wanted to have one last burger each.”

“Do you want to hear a real Scrubby and Lloyd’s story?” asked Abbie Woodward of San Luis Obispo.

Woodward recalled that when her now 30-year-old son Mark was a toddler, the family ate at the restaurant, and the child’s beloved teddy bear was accidentally left behind.

Anxious to calm her upset son, Woodward called the proprietors. “It was 8:45 at night. They came down and opened up and found the bear. We came and got it.”

The Pettengers will close the restaurant for good at 8 tonight.

As far as the future goes, Marilyn Pettenger said, “We’re leaving our options open. … I think we’ll probably regroup or figure out something else to do. Another option is to help somebody else start a Scrubby and Lloyd’s. … If someone came in and had really solid ideas, we’d probably listen to them.”

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