In 1975, Rubin Jacobs purchased the 1934 Hebrew National Deli and Bar on a prime spot of boardwalk near Stillwell Avenue. He decorated the space sparsely: a long bar, some tables and chairs, a grill, some old-time photos on the walls. Ruby had spent his whole life in Coney Island: He sold knishes on the boardwalk as a kid and owned the neighborhood's last four bathhouses.

Jacobs saw his bar through Coney's most downtrodden days, and Ruby's became a cornerstone for the community, becoming headquarters for the annual Polar Bear Club swim and Mermaid Parade. When he passed away ten years ago, his daughters Cindy and Melody took over full-time operations, along with Melody's husband Michael Sarrel. Their children grew up in Ruby's. "I've spent fourteen summers here, since I was twelve," said Ruby's grandson Matthew Sarrel. I've been helping out since I could barely see over the bar." Same goes for the granddaughters.

When amusement giant Zamperla became landlord last year, they told all their new tenants that some would stay and some would go, so if they wanted to stick around they'd better fix themselves up and submit a business plan. Ruby's heeded their advice: they pumped $40,000 into the bar and gave Zamperla a detailed description of how it could continue to make money.

It didn't matter. Last week, Zamperla presented Ruby's (as well as eight other longtime boardwalk residents, including Shoot the Freak, Cha Cha's, and Paul's Daughter) with a letter telling them that they'd been evicted and had until November 15th to "surrender the premises." Only outposts of Nathan's and Lola Staar Boutique would remain on the boardwalk; Ruby's would be demolished and turned into a year-round sports bar.

The news hit like a bullet to the chest. Even though Ruby's had officially closed for the season the previous weekend, they opened back up yesterday, most likely for the final time. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, a crowd of several hundred came by to pay their final respects. Some had been coming for over 50 years, others had only been once or twice, but everyone there was united by shock, anger, and the simple question: "Why?"

For grandson Matthew Sarrel, the news didn't set in until Friday. "We used to have a great jukebox here, with great Latino music" he said. "I was driving yesterday and on the radio came one of those old songs. I just started crying, and couldn't stop. This is what we know. This is our way of life. They're destroying tradition, and destroying the community."

As the afternoon wore on, the owners gave brief speeches, petitions were signed, and the last of the beer was sold: first went the Brooklyn, then Guinness, then Sam Adams. When old-timers would greet owner Michael with a "nice to see you," he'd reply, "It's nice to be seen." His wife, Melody, equated the eviction with her father dying again, and spent most of the afternoon in a daze, crying. "This is killing me; it's breaking my heart," she'd repeat to herself.

It was obvious, as the sun set over the Atlantic and on Ruby's for most likely the final time, that Coney Island would never be the same. As Ruby's daughter Cindy put it, "Coney Island is about diversity, and history. When you take that away, what's left?"