Famed Washington, D.C., restaurateur Jeffrey Gildenhorn died after he choked while having dinner at The Palm Wednesday night.
Gildenhorn, the owner of American City Diner in Northwest Washington, was taken to George Washington University Hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 74.
The diner was closed Thursday. A handwritten note hung on the eatery's door Thursday that read, "R.I.P. Jeffrey Gildenhorn!!!"
"He was a character, but he loved this city incredibly. He loved this city and he loved everything about it," customer Brian Mulholland said.
Other longtime regulars to his diner were shocked by the news of his death.
"He was a good person, a down-to-earth guy," one woman said.
"His employees really seemed to care for him and spoke very highly of him and we've been coming here forever," another woman said.
Gildenhorn's business career began in 1965 when he took over his family's business, Circle Liquor Store, a biography published on the restaurant's website said. The business evolved into Jeffrey Gildenhorn Enterprises, which eventually included 11 retail businesses.
Gildenhorn opened the diner in 1989, the same year he made a bid to purchase the Atlanta Braves and move the team to the District. The restaurant is meant to capture the nostalgia of the 1950s, according to a newspaper article published on the diner's website.
Beyond his business ventures, Gildenhorn also pursued a career in politics. In 1998, the Ward 3 resident ran for mayor of Washington, D.C., but lost in the primary.