SALT LAKE CITY - A decades-old mom-and-pop restaurant that's been a huge staple in the University of Utah community has closed its doors, and the sudden shutdown has surprised even the people who worked there.
While many are sad over the loss of Big Ed's, the closure left a number of people angry - because of why they suspect it went out of business.
Servers tell Fox 13 that Big Ed's, on 210 University Street East across from campus, closed its doors late last week. The restaurant's sign says it was established in 1968.
Several people including Kelly Fisher showed up Monday to look at the "Sorry restaurant closed" sign and take pictures.
Candles, flowers and cards of sympathy were left by the front door.
"It was our neighborhood joint," Fisher said.
She said her whole family has been coming to the restaurant for years. She used to take her son to Big Ed's for breakfast every weekend.
Fisher said her family was heartbroken by the news.
University of Utah student Linda Liu said she heard the restaurant was closing and hoped to stop in for one last famous Gawd Awful dish-- a mess of hash browns, eggs, chili, cheese, onions and sour cream. But she realized the doors were already shut and locked.
"The fact it's closing down after so many years, it's a sad loss," she said.
"It was out of nowhere," said former server Desree Savage. "It was abrupt, and none of us expected it."
Savage worked at Big Ed's for 11 years, and said much of the wait staff had been there just as long.
"It was such a close-knit family," she said.
Everyone called the owners 'Mom' and 'Dad' she said, because they were truly parents to the University community.
"Mom really was the mom of the campus," Savage said. "She would feed anybody that was hungry. She would take care of anybody that needed anything."
On Thursday, she said another server told her the restaurant was closed.
"She had gotten a text from Dad that they were just gone-- Don't text them, don't call them," Savage explained.
U. of U. student George Li, who said he has been friends with the owner since moving here four years ago, also got a similar message - but for an entirely different reason.
Li said he grew close with the owner and in the past year, he loaned the owner around $28,500 because the owner said he needed it to help his son's business in San Francisco.
But, Li said the owner didn't pay him back.
Then on Thursday, he said he got a message in Chinese through a messaging app from the owner that was sent to him and several other people.
"He sent us all a message that says, 'I gambled it all off. I lose all the money,'" Li said.
Li said he immediately drove to the restaurant to find several other people standing outside.
"There's a huge group of people - students like me - and the amount added together is almost $300,000," Li said.
He said he and the students went to the owner's house to find him gone. They also called police, he said. He said they suspect the owner's left the area.
"He just run away," Li said, "Lying to us and take all of our money."
Now, Li said he and the other students plan to file a lawsuit in hopes of recovering some of the money.
"We were pretty angry about this," he said. "I mean, we respect him as an older friend. But the truth is, he lied to all of us."
Fox 13 attempted to reach out to the owner as well as the property manager, but did not hear back.
Savage said she and other servers cleaned out the restaurant over the weekend, and they're not sure what's next for the space.
She said she hopes that people can at least remember the good times had over the years, and the positive memories.
"We're going to miss everyone, all the regulars that would come in here," she said. "We love them so much."