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Chef Liu reverting to Mervyn's restaurant; historic lounge closing for now

Original post made by Max Hauser, Old Mountain View, on Jul 2, 2014

A memory of many longtime Mountain-View residents is Mervyn's "Fine Foods" ("For Delightful Dining . . . and Cocktails"), a downtown casual restaurant and gathering place that opened at 236 Castro St. in the1960s. (No connection to the later department-store chain.)

Photos of Mervyn's surface in various places, including Nick Perry's second photo-history book "Mountain View, Then & Now" (page 78).

The original restaurant closed in the 1990s, evolving to Chef Liu. But the compact, popular bar behind it (Mervyn's Lounge) continued as a tenant with separate ownership -- and low profile, like a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Accessible by a nondescript blue door in the alley, or through the restaurant (by continuing past the restrooms in the rear, through a second door, in an arrangement resembling a space-ship "air lock"). Some residents have passed the alley door for years, not knowing a popular neighborhood bar-lounge was behind it.

That's all changing, immediately. Chef Liu is now gone. Mervyn's Lounge will serve its last drink TONIGHT, closing for good at 2AM after 51 years. There's a larger story to this, but first more details about Mervyn's Lounge.

Bartender Mike Coughlin told me today that the Lounge received word yesterday it must close. The news is out, and this afternoon, old customers were dropping by to pay respects. I wouldn't be surprised if the tiny place fills to capacity with old customers and well-wishers in its remaining hours.

I got other details from Ruddy Wang, part of the family that owns the property and owned Chef Liu. According to Ruddy, after remodeling the Chef-Liu space (now underway and scheduled for completion later this month), the owners plan to restore the former Mervyn's restaurant in the 236-Castro-Street frontage.

Not the original Greek-American café, but an updated version with inexpensive casual foods emphasizing "small plates," and drinks in front as well as back. Current draft menu includes slider sandwiches, potato specialties (how about sweet-potato "tater tots?"), "street tacos."

History is much on Ruddy's mind, he said. He has begun seeking photos of the old Mervyn's restaurant to decorate the new interior, and honor the original. The restaurant's interior has already been reorganized. The plan, he said, is first to open the restored Mervyn's restaurant, then remodel the separate bar-lounge space in back, re-opening it as an integrated part of the new restaurant under single ownership.

Comments (4)

Posted by KW
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 3, 2014 at 3:14 pm

KW is a registered user.

Seriously bummed. Only place in MV where you could go out for a drink and not have to mortgage your house. Music was kept quiet so you could actually hold a conversation.

Posted by MyOpinion
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 5, 2014 at 9:00 am

MyOpinion is a registered user.

This is great news, the new and improved Mervyns sounds like it will be a nice addition to Castro Street.

For those who want cheap drinks, they can always join the Eagles on Castro St, best deal in town for drinks and the profits support their charities.

Posted by Max Hauser
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Mervyn's Lounge is re-opening, for now, starting tonight.

Mervyn's Lounge (behind 236 Castro), downtown MV's venerable low-profile neighborhood bar-lounge and the oldest bar of any kind in the city, has posted a note on its alley door, announcing open hours Tuesday through Sunday, 6 PM to 2 AM, closed Mondays, and that this schedule is "subject to change," any changes to be updated on the door. Note the reduced hours: for many years, Mervyn's had opened in the mornings, and seven days a week.

In another development that, to my knowledge, is entirely independent (and may well be temporary), today the city's Building Inspection Division posted Stop-Work orders on the doors of the restaurant in front at 236 Castro, citing inadequate permits. The restaurant has been undergoing remodeling, toward reopening with the its old Mervyn's name restored.

Posted by Max Hauser
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

I confirmed this with one of the owners and one of the bartenders yesterday: there's no intention of changing Mervyn's Lounge, let alone closing such a popular local institution.

The people who'd held the Lounge business as a concession within the restaurant property are no longer involved, but the family that owns the restaurant (and whose bar license the Lounge has always operated under) are rehiring old bartenders, toward new permanent hours of 11 AM to 2 AM daily once it's fully staffed. For now, Mervyn's Lounge opens 6PM and is closed Mondays (the Monday closure may continue). The owner I talked to pledged a hands-off approach, only routine clean-up planned, no change to the look and feel. Regulars are coming back in.

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