A teenager's dream ends in Pleasanton | December 26, 2008 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Column - December 26, 2008

A teenager's dream ends in Pleasanton

by Jeb Bing

"Auld Lang Syne" will have a somber tone to it Wednesday night when it is sung by New Year's revelers for the last time in Bill Laube's restaurant in the Pleasanton Hotel. Laube, who with his wife Vernie have owned and operated the award-winning downtown restaurant since 1983, lost their lease and are shutting down New Year's Day.

The building's owner Sue Martinovich of Alamo rejected Laube's bid to keep the restaurant open through May 1 to accommodate 14 banquets and wedding receptions that are already booked for early 2009, including a wedding planned for Jan. 31. She told him to be out by Jan. 1 and he's busy now trying to reach those affected by the closing to arrange alternative locations. An auction house has been called in to sell off the furnishings and Laube hopes many of his Pleasanton customers will buy whatever they can as nostalgic reminders of an historical era now passing by.

At age 75, Laube's not sure what he'll do next, although food service and the restaurant business are in his blood. It wouldn't surprise me to see his skills and local appeal surface nearby. A Rotarian, he also has hosted the Pleasanton Rotary (Downtown) Club since buying the restaurant. Rotary will now squeeze back into Hap's Restaurant starting Thursday, Jan. 15.

Laube became interested in restaurants as a high school teenager in Syracuse, N.Y. when he took a summer job at his uncle's restaurant in Buffalo. For a time, he worked at his uncle's concession stand across the border at a Canadian amusement park, riding the roller coasters between serving diners. He dreamed someday of owning his own restaurant. Later, he earned a degree in hotel restaurant management at Cornell University, following that with a job in the food service business in Minnesota that catered to local schools. Restless with the daily routine, he moved to Greece for two years with the Army and Air Force exchange service that served all of the military PXs and retail operations. He returned in 1964 to work for Saga Food Service, which was headquartered in Menlo Park.

Still not satisfied, Laube went to work for a Lebanese food service management company in London that wanted him to open a U.S. office. They picked San Diego which pleased Bill and Vernie, although he traveled extensively in Europe and to Saudi Arabia, where the company was a major supplier to ARAMCO, the American oil consortium. Always looking for a chance to get back into the restaurant business, Laube heard about the Pleasanton Hotel opportunity from Martinovich, who had purchased the hotel in 1981, and Laube bought out the existing restaurant two years later.

It's been quite a run, with Vernie helping out during the peak holiday periods, and Bill at the restaurant almost every day when it opened at 11 a.m. for lunch and closed after midnight. Sunday brunch has always been Laube's busiest and most profitable offering, although, as with other restaurants, the customer base has been declining recently. His business was especially hard-hit when local wineries opened with banquet halls, caterers and an atmosphere that attracted the wedding reception and banquet business that accounted for much of Laube's profits. Not long ago, Laube would host two weddings every Saturday; that hasn't happened for years.

Other special events have been popular. Laube just finished his 13th year of Thursday night meals and dancing to the "blues" on the patio, which appealed to an older clientele who know that kind of music. His "Mystery Dinner Theater," which held its last performance Sunday night, started 15 years ago and has more recently been produced by Jack Gibson from Benicia. Gibson, whose mysteries and other locations can be found at gibsonhouse.com, put on two shows a month, with new shows each month. The production involves audience participation after the meals are finished and a mystery-environment which Laube's Victorian Room provided. Besides being fun and exciting, especially in a hotel known for its ghosts, it was also profitable.

Now it's over, although Martinovich, whose parents once owned the Elegant Farmer in Oakland, might try opening a different type of restaurant at her hotel, one that would be like Elegant Farmer and appeal to a younger crowd. For the Laubes, who have eight children and 15 grandchildren between them, New Year's Day will at least offer some time to enjoy the family after 25 years of nonstop restaurateuring.


Posted by kristine z., a resident of Downtown
on Dec 31, 2008 at 6:26 am

And Bill makes a wonderful Santa on Christmas...I will miss the gang so much!!!! So much!!! Being a hostess there was just so fun and "old fashioned" and I loved every minute of it...!!!!! I will miss you Bill, Benita (especially!!!) Gerard, Vernie.....!!!!

Posted by registered user, Julie, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2008 at 11:18 am

I was really saddened by this article. It seems a shame to make a successful, popular, award winning restaurant close and for what reason? Sounds like a greedy landlord to me. I hope she finds that kicking out the Laubes makes as much sense as did raising the rent on the hardware store in the historic Kolln Building.

Posted by registered user, PToWN94566, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2008 at 10:44 pm

What!? If I would have known about the hotel closing it's doors, I would have pushed my family to eat their for Christmas Eve. I've been there a few times with family, usually around a holiday, and it's sad to see a place that holds so many peoples' memories go! My earliest memory of this was going there and looking at the old Cheese Factory place across the street. Damn landlord!!!

Does anyone know what will go in or become of the Pleasanton Hotel?