Stunned employees at a Coco’s restaurant in Highland Park were told during their Christmas party that the restaurant would permanently close on Wednesday.

The news came without warning and has left both patrons and employees distraught, with many working and visiting this location for decades.

Community members and employees have seen the restaurant go through multiple changes throughout the years, but one thing remains the same — it’s a beloved gathering spot for friends and family in the area.

Plenty of diners visit the restaurant two to three times a week. Now they’re showing up in droves to say goodbye to old friends, servers, and decades of memories.

“It’s like you’re going home or going to a family member’s house, it doesn’t feel like a restaurant or like other restaurants,” said Diana Jordan, a patron.

“Everybody loves this restaurant,” said Jessica Monzo. “They love the food, they love the service.”

News of the closure came as a shock to patrons, while employees are now scrambling as they’re left without a job.

“It was hard hearing the news two days before Christmas,” said Lorena Morales, a 30-year employee at Coco’s. “And at my family gathering, I didn’t tell them anything. Why am I going to ruin their Christmas?”

Morales has been an employee since the restaurant’s beginning, serving the community where she raised her children while making plenty of lifelong friends over the years.

“They’re not customers, they’re family,” said Morales.

She said the building’s lease expired in May 2023, so she was completely blindsided by news of the closure.

“I’ve been here 30 years, I worked through the pandemic, I gave it my all,” said Morales.

But in the end, all she was afforded was a few days to thank her customers and bid her farewells.

“There are a lot of seniors who come here and they have nowhere else to go,” explained Morales. “They come here to talk to us, to just spend time with us because they have no other family and that’s really going to be sad for them and that makes me more sad.”

“It’s an ongoing family restaurant and that’s just how it is and it’s just sad to see this is going to be closed today,” said Monzo.

The restaurant permanently closed its doors at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night. Representatives for the diner declined to comment or make a statement.