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Rick's Roadside Cafe threatened by Highway 138 widening project

A roadside restaurant that dates back to the 1930s could go out of business because of a highway widening project.
February 21, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Rick's Roadside Cafe, a roadside restaurant that dates back to the 1930s, could go out of business because of a highway widening project.

The restaurant is located along Highway 138 and Beekley Road in Piñon Hills. For close to 80 years, the old-fashioned restaurant has been a fixture along the highway.

"It's kind of a mainstay; it's been here forever," said Ron Venice of Phelan.

People in Piñon Hills say Rick's Cafe reminds them of the old sitcom "Cheers."

"I've been up here 20 years, and Rick's is just the best game in town," said Sharon Emert of Piñon Hills.

Rick Baxter is the owner of the restaurant.

"The little hole in the wall that it is, it's something we're all pretty proud of," said Baxter.

But a plan to widen Highway 138 through the area could mean the end of this historical place. Practically the entire parking lot is actually built on state right-of-way, and the state now needs it for the project.

"The fact of the matter is the parking lot has been used on state property for quite some time. Caltrans, for whatever reason, has not chosen to enforce it until now, because we're getting close to the construction phase and we need to make sure all of our ducks in a row," said Jason Bennecke with Caltrans.

Caltrans wants to build a sloped drainage feature all the way up close to the restaurant and then build a safety fence. That would mean a lot of the current parking area will be unavailable.

"It allows me four parking spaces," said Baxter. "To chop me down to four spaces would basically shut me down, keep me out of business."

To be clear, the parking lot is indeed on state property.

"I understand, it is, it is. But they've given me the access to use it for 80 years," said Baxter.

Regardless, people here are hopeful there can be some kind of solution. We should know within a few months, because construction is set to begin in July.


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