Newtown’s long-standing Lebanese restaurant Rowda Ya-Habibi – known for its affordable felafel rolls and kebabs, raucous belly dancing performances and generous banquets – will close before the end of September.

“We had been considering closing the restaurant for some time and Covid kind of gave us another reason to finally move on,” says Antoinette Rowda, who’s owned and operated the King Street mainstay with her husband Assaad since 1978.

Even those who aren’t among the three generations of Sydneysiders to eat at the family-run restaurant would likely recognise its distinctive turquoise neon sign and bold orange awning.

Over some 42 years, it’s fed a steady stream of Sydney University students, staff from the nearby Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and countless locals, Rowda says, adding that many customers have returned time and again with kids and grandkids in tow.

“We were one of the first Lebanese restaurants in the area,” she says. “The food has always been approachable, giving a taste of fresh home cooking at great value, with plenty of vegetarian options [to cater] to the Newtown demographic. Belly dancing, baklava and banquets was always an easy sell.”

Rowda says she has loved being part of the ever-evolving inner-west community and introducing many to the joys of Middle Eastern cuisine.

“Our customers have become like family and we will miss seeing them,” she says.

Rowda Ya-Habibi will close on 25 September, 2020.