SAN DIEGO (CBSLA) — Souplantation — the buffet-style restaurant with a large cult following of families, hipsters and frugal eaters — will reportedly close for good because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The chain, which is known as Sweet Tomatoes outside of the Los Angeles area, shut down in March along with all other eat-in restaurants. But with other reopening states explicitly not including buffets or salad bars, both of which are core to Souplantation’s model, the company said it did not see a way forward.

The closure means 97 restaurants will be permanently shuttered, and more than 4,000 employees will lose their jobs.

Souplantation’s parent company, San Diego-based Garden Fresh Restaurants, told the Los Angeles Times they considered applying for a loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, but with reopening their restaurants looking unlikely, they couldn’t take the money because it would be “disingenuous.”

Fans of Souplantation took to Twitter to mourn together.

Another buffet-style restaurant, Hometown Buffet, actually kept its Covina location open for takeout service. It’s not clear what will happen next for other buffet-focused restaurants, which are popular in the San Gabriel Valley.

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