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Tabletop blues: A bizarre prank marks the closure of North County favorite Hoover's Beef Palace in Templeton 

It was the last week that North County favorite Hoover’s Beef Palace would be open for business in the restaurant’s long-time location. Regulars came in herds to get one final breakfast or supper served in large portions on big oval plates, all for 20th-century prices. The activity culminated on Nov. 9, when the restaurant served its last steak and eggs, omelets, and burgers--for now--before its closure to make way for a housing development slated for the property. The news brought an onslaught of tributes on Facebook and Yelp.

Then, early in the morning of Friday, Nov. 7, owner Mark Simmons noticed something missing while opening up for the last weekend: Two large, wooden countertops, each decorated with old coins and cattle brands and sealed with resin, were gone. In their place sat two broad pieces of plywood, with dimensions perfectly cut to fit atop the counter.

click to enlarge DISAPPEARING ACT:  In a bizarre series of events at Hoover’s Beef Palace restaurant in Templeton, two historic countertops were reported stolen and replaced with perfectly-measured plywood. Restaurant owners later learned the countertops were underneath the plywood, which customers signed to say goodbye before the restaurant closed on Nov. 9. - PHOTO BY JONO KINKADE
  • PHOTO BY JONO KINKADE
  • DISAPPEARING ACT: In a bizarre series of events at Hoover’s Beef Palace restaurant in Templeton, two historic countertops were reported stolen and replaced with perfectly-measured plywood. Restaurant owners later learned the countertops were underneath the plywood, which customers signed to say goodbye before the restaurant closed on Nov. 9.

As the morning went on, word got out that the recent property owners weren’t happy about the heist, since they had plans for the countertops. The relics were part of the original restaurant, built in the early 1940s, when it stood only as a kitchen, a counter, and a pick-up window to serve the people gathered around the auction yard of the Templeton Livestock Market. The restaurant expanded in the 1970s when additional buildings were added, including the offices of the Templeton Livestock Market and of long-time local rancher, land broker, and cattle dealer Dick Nock.

By Friday afternoon, the owners filed a report with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, whose North County office—sitting on a hill just half a mile up the road—is one of the first structures visible from the restaurant’s front door. Officials said there was no sign of forced entry. The Beef Palace is not exactly an impenetrable fortress, however.

“Anybody could get into the restaurant if they wanted to,” Simmons said. “The building is so old and has several windows.”

Over the weekend, as word of the apparent stunt got around, customers used permanent markers to write messages on the plywood. Then Simmons got a mysterious tip, telling him to look more closely at the countertops. On Sunday morning, he discovered that the original countertops were underneath the plywood the whole time, and that instead of a robbery, it was just a country-style prank performed by a fan of the restaurant. The plywood was meant to be a blank canvas for customers to pay homage to the Simmons family and its staff.

The 17-acre property was recently sold its to Pismo Beach-based Coastal Community Builders, which plans to build 107 single-family homes on the lot. The extensive cattle yard has already been torn out, and clumps of scrap metal wait to be collected next to the market’s pole barn, which has yet to be removed.

Simmons, who owned the restaurant since 1995, told New Times that he’s hoping to re-open elsewhere, preferably in Templeton or Paso Robles, but he’s waiting for the right situation—namely price and location.

“I’m not going to jump into a bad situation,” he said.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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