image - 3-zero cafe

The 3-Zero Cafe closed over the weekend, apparently for the final time. For many, it was  destination restaurant on the coast. Kyle Ludowitz / Review

3-Zero Cafe, a Coastside dining institution for 25 years, closed its doors, perhaps for good, on Sunday. 

Owner Joe Gore entered into a five-year lease with San Mateo County in 2010 with an option to extend the lease by another five years. To extend, Gore said he had to notify the county no later than 180 days before the original lease expired. 

“I never had a lease like that before and so I missed the date to extend it for five years,” Gore said. 

After missing the date for an extension, Gore entered into a month-to-month lease with the county, which operates the Half Moon Bay Airport that is central to the restaurant’s theme.

Recently, Gore said, he decided he wanted to leave the restaurant business and entrust 3-Zero to his business partner and manager Mark Smith. Gore said he was expecting the county to issue a request for proposals for use of the site in August, but that did not happen, and his lease continued on a month-to-month basis. 

“I did not want to have to apply again for it,” he said. “I kept hoping Mark and I could extend the lease.” 

Ultimately, Gore chose to submit his 30-day notice this year and leave the restaurant business. The county is expected to publish a request for proposals for the site on April 15, and Gore is hopeful Smith will apply. Smith could not be reached for this story.

The cafe was beloved by many on the coast and around the world. Its aviation motif and the fact that it was on Half Moon Bay Airport property made it a first stop for many visitors who flew into the area on day trips, for business and just for a good meal at the 3-Zero.

The restaurant took its name from an aviation directional convention. Runways are known to pilots by their magnetic compass headings; the 3-Zero Cafe was at 300 degrees. It was decorated with model airplanes and other bits of aviation ephemera, and diners could look out the window  onto the airport grounds.

It was a repeat winner of Review Readers Choice awards for best breakfast on the coast and carried a four-star rating from Yelp.

Late last year, restaurant owners were sued by five former employees who alleged they were not paid for years of overtime they say they worked at the cafe. At the time, owner Joe Gore said he had never heard the complaints before. It was not clear whether the suit had anything to do with the restaurant’s closure. 

The restaurant is on a septic system, which at times caused overflow problems, according to Gore. 

He said the next owner would have to work with the county to try and figure out the best solution. 

“Over the years, we did way more than just serve food,” Gore said. “I am sure someone will take it over and it will be a better place in the future. If someone has an interest in aviation and good food.”

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