By Don Ford

HAYWARD (KPIX 5) — The new year will mean the end of what was once a huge East Bay restaurant chain as the Hayward Ranch rings the dinner bell one last time.

After 71 years, the ranch restaurant and bar is closing–the original owners have passed away and the heirs want to sell. Tuesday was its last day.

It was a special place and warm friendly gathering spot for generations.

“This is unique. That’s why it’s so sad to see it go,” said long time customer Valerie Lee.

Hayward Ranch was opened in 1948 by Leonardo Perolo, who once had 27 ranch restaurants spread across the Bay Area, but times and tastes have changed.

Back in the day, East Bay power brokers used to meet at the Ranch. “Everything political went down here at the Ranch,” said Hayward city councilman Mark Salinas. “This is where deals were made.”

The walls inside are covered in memories, including art from all over, a stuffed antelope, old boxing posters and political buttons from long forgotten races.

Waitress Brandi Gomes has been working at the Ranch since high school and remembers the owners. “Especially Christine. She was the backbone of the place,” Gomes said.

Chef Dave Sohlinki says millions of pounds of beef have been sizzled on the grill at the Ranch.

“Everybody’s worried. Where are they going to go after this?” pondered bartender Julliott Elliot. “They get off work, they come down here. It’s just sad.”

“We’re trying to figure that out,” said Valerie Lee.