The saying is true...you don't know what you've got until it's gone.

Yesterday. I wrote an article on how I stumbled upon an empty parking lot and a closed Al Mac's Diner over the weekend.

The restaurant is still there, but what I enjoyed about it the most was the late night dining after the club/bars. Unfortunately, the hours have changed and the diner now closes at 10:00 PM on the weekends.

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone."

Earlier today, I spoke with the owner, Susan Dunse, for a good hour about the reasoning behind the changed open hours, and I was a bit shocked to hear what she had to say.

I felt terrible.

Throughout the past six months or so, the small mom-and-pop restaurant started getting a bit rowdy (drinking alcohol before heading in for a meal doesn't help). Between parking lot fights and cussing customers, it made it difficult for the business to get the food out quickly to the customers without having to play referee.

Eventually, a detail was requested from Fall River Police, but anybody who knows the expense of this acquired need knows that it's not too cheap--and that's when you could get someone. There's not always enough staff working that night to fill the position. This made it difficult for the business to make enough overhead to afford an officer for the weekends.

"We were running around like crazy during the day to make extra money, just to be able to open up at night," Dunse said.

She started noticing a different crowd, an "out-of-town" crew that was slowly replacing a majority of her local customers. Her brand new booths were slashed and a window were broken (that smae window was fixed immediately), sometimes causing Al Mac's to close down for a few hours to fix the damage, further losing business and money.

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone."

Now, as a frequent customer over the years, I too have witnessed these badly-behaved crowds tear apart a local family staple in the community. The waitresses were always kind, and more importantly, patient when it comes to customer service.

I've seen with my own eyes animal-like behavior and heard with my own ears inappropriate, unspeakable conversations and foul language. It's not a night club, it's a family restaurant. People are there to eat.

Al Mac's Diner, for as long as I can remember, has always been the "go-to" in Fall River for late night breakfast, and even dinner for some, before and after a long shift at work. I find it unsettling and sad to see what the late night crowd has done to the place. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

As a result of all this, Dunse and her staff have chosen not to open up past midnight on the weekends, due to the amount of stress they have been under.

And quite frankly, I don't blame them. After all, remember what happened to the Golden Greek in New Bedford? It's an awful trend that's affecting local businesses, and it's becoming unfair to the hard working staff and owners. At what point do we make people responsible for their actions? I repeat...

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone."

However, it's not everyone who goes in there who is the problem. It's the select few who choose to act unaccordingly to acceptable behavior within society who have ruined late night grub for the rest of us.

Luckily, there is some good news out of all this. Dunse did tell me that she would absolutely open back up past midnight on the weekends again if there was some way to improve the behavior of those who assume that the diner is a playground. The trick is, how do we as a community solve this problem? Talk about a conundrum.

Dunse loves her loyal repeat customers and always welcomes the new ones.

"Nothing is better than seeing someone happy when they leave, I love hearing positive things," she said. "If something is ever wrong, I only hope that they (the customer) would let me or us know. You can't fix something if you don't know it's broken."

Throughout the years, many locals have enjoyed their routine visits to Al Mac's Diner as a place of comfort and good eats.

"The people who come back day after day (mean the world to me)," Dunse said. "We have a 95-year-old lady who comes with her family every week for lunch (and breakfast since it's all day long) and they love going, every week."

Just like clockwork, Dunse remembers her customer's orders and always makes sure she's stocked for when they come to visit.

"Alan gets fried clams, and Mary always gets the scallops," she said, mentioning just a few of her long-time, valued customers.

As a customer myself, I applaud the restaurant for buying their food locally.

"All food is cooked to order, hamburgers and linguica are fresh from Michael's and you can get the meat cooked to your request," she said. "We cook our own turkeys and the sweet bread is ordered from Azores Bakery."

Besides the behavior problems from a select few late-night customers, Dunse also wishes more people knew that they were open, so she can show them her dedication and love for her business.

"I love being the caretaker at Al Mac's and I love the people who come," she said.

Now that I had the opportunity to speak with Dunse and get her side of the story, my only hope is that the poor behavior of some (not all) who visit the diner improves, so that we can all enjoy BLTs, chourico omelets and handcut home fries at 2:30 in the morning.

Being a courteous customer and respecting a business is not that difficult. Perhaps it's time to recognize a small hard-working restaurant whose main purpose and focus is to serve the community delicious food and even better customer service, before it's too late. One last time...

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone."

#EndRant