A sign greeted customers who arrived to the popular World Sports Cafe, letting them know as of Monday the restaurant will be closed. For 15 years, sports fans visited the Northeast Fresno business to get a bite to eat and enjoy the sports museum before heading off to the movie theater next door.
Tim McDonald and Matt Johnson opened the restaurant together in 1999 and over the years, watched as the business grew -- eventually employing about 85 people.
The former professional football players met as teammates at U.S.C., and according to Johnson, their current positions as football coaches led to their decision not to re-sign their lease with River Park.
"How can you own and operate a business 2,500 miles away when you know your career goes in a certain direction," said Johnson, "it was difficult we knew this day could come."
Throughout the day, employees removed appliances from the restaurant. Some said they were notified about the closure just hours before their scheduled shifts -- and were asked to come to the restaurant to pick up their final paychecks.
"It's sad. It's emotional. I cried a little bit. You know you create an industry family with everyone for more than 7 years its kinda like disbanding a group," said Justin Hoffman, World Sports Cafe employee.
Some said the closure didn't come as a complete surprise. On Sunday night, employees said a group of women showed up at the door asking questions.
In a press release, River Park stated:
"For many years, World Sports Cafe has been a part of the River Park Shopping Center. Their doors are now closed for business. We wish World Sports Cafe, their staff and their leadership well in their future endeavors."
Stay with Action News and ABC30.com for more on this story.