GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - An iconic Gulfport restaurant is closed until further notice. The Blow Fly Inn shut its doors Tuesday, and the operator had until midnight to move out. The news caught a lot of customers and employees off guard.
"What is going on," one woman asked as she walked up to the restaurant.
Lunchtime customers left surprised and disappointed after noticing a sign in front of the Blow Fly Inn.
"There's a sign that says it's closed. Is it closed for good," asked another customer.
The sign stated that the Blow Fly Inn is closed until further notice and the operator and his recipes are no longer connected to the iconic name.
"The food's excellent. The location's excellent. It's been here since I've been here. It'll be missed," said Anthony Mazzeo, of Gulfport.
"It's hard on all of us," said Scott Weinberg.
Weinberg fought back tears as he talked about a restaurant that's been part of his life for 18 years.
"It's tough, because you start seeing a lot of things that bring back a lot of memories," Weinberg said.
Weinberg has operated the restaurant since June of 1998, but he does not own the rights to the name or the building.
Monday night, he broke the news to his 35 employees that his lease has ended, and the restaurant and property owner wants to take over the management of the Blow Fly.
"Pretty brutal to be honest with you, but I have to do just like all my employees. I mean, we'll survive. I would have given them as much notice as I could have, but it just doesn't work in a restaurant," said Weinberg.
The news was a big blow to his staff.
"Emotional, sad, angry. It feels like a dream," said Jennifer Brown.
Brown has worked as a waitress at the restaurant for nine years.
"The reason the Blow Fly stays open is because of the regulars, and I know it's going to break their heart just as much as it's breaking ours," said Brown.
"This is what another customer brought us. They wrote a poem called the Old Blow Fly Inn," said Weinberg as he held up one of many mementos that he received over the years.
Weinberg said he will miss his loyal customers and his employees, especially those who've worked for him from the very beginning.
"I mean, we're like a family here, and it's tough," he said.
Weinberg doesn't know yet what his future holds.
"I'm from here. I grew up here. It's tough," he said as tears filled his eyes.
Dr. Victor Bazzone, of Gulfport, bought the rights to the Blow Fly Inn name and the property in 1997. He told WLOX News Now the restaurant will return with a retro look, and the menu will feature some recipes that were popular when the restaurant was founded by the Malones back in the fifties.
Bazzone said he hopes to reopen the Blow Fly Inn before July 4. On Wednesday morning, he plans to meet with the employees to discuss the possibility of staying on with the restaurant.