This is not a joke. As of October 1, Dysart's Restaurant in Hermon no longer will be open 24 hours. (When I first saw the signs, I thought it was, so I called to double check and it's totally legit.)

For anyone who grew up in Eastern Maine, Dysart's Restaurant has not only been a destination for many a weary trucker and traveler, but also a bit of a rite of passage for anyone old enough to stay out past midnight.

"Hey, what are you guys gonna do after the bar closes?"

"We're heading to Dysart's, of course!"

Now, Dysart's will be open from 5 a.m. to 12 midnight, seven days a week. Dysart’s fuel operations and store at the same location will remain open 24/7, with food, sandwiches and goodies available, as well as full service pumps.

One of only a couple of restaurants in the Bangor area open 24 hours, for decades Dysart's has been the meeting ground for the area's night-owls, insomniacs and a good population of either drunk of hung-over revelers. I mean, there aren't many other places around where you could get a plate of meatloaf, a Belgian waffle and an endless supply of coffee for a decent price, no matter the time of night or day.

So my jaw dropped when I first saw the photo of the sign Dysart's posted in the window of their Coldbrook Road restaurant make its way to Facebook Tuesday night. The sign read:

"As of Oct. 1st 2019 Dysart's Restaurant will be closed during the hours of midnight to 5 am. Thank you for your patronage and we're looking forward to serving you in the future."

I thought it was a hoax. Dysart's Restaurant has been open 24 hours longer than I've been alive. The only time I remember the restaurant closing its doors was on Christmas Eve evening or for maintenance. It had to be a hoax.

I picked up the phone to put an end to my speculation, and sure enough, the young lady who picked up on the other end was almost in as much disbelief as I was. She said it was true, and that the folks who work there were also trying to wrap their minds around it. She couldn't say much else, as there hasn't been much information released to the public, let alone the employees, about why this decision was made. And she said there were indeed signs up in the restaurant informing people of the change in operating hours.

On Wednesday, Dysart's owners issued a statement.

"This is something we have kicked around for years," said Mary Dysart Hartt, co-owner of Dysart’s. "The late night landscape has shifted over time. We have seen the elimination of overnight shifts at many businesses in the area, we have seen fewer and fewer people come out after going to the bars, and trucking laws have changed which has resulted in fewer drivers on the road after midnight. With all of those changes, and even though the rest of the day remains very strong, we just aren’t seeing enough business between midnight and 5 a.m. to justify keeping the restaurant open overnight."

The trucking laws do not require drivers to be off the road after a certain time, but they do require 10 hours off-duty. Generally, drivers are using their off-duty hours overnight.

"As a business, and as difficult as it is, we must adapt to the changing times," said Hartt. "It will feel very odd to turn off the lights for a few hours that first night, but we know it’s in the best interest of our business and employees. It doesn’t do anybody any good to work at such a late hour when the number of customers has decreased overnight because of external changes we cannot control."

I respect that folks have to do what they have to do to get by these days. But I'm still kind of sad that, from this point forward, there will be a bit of a rite of passage missing from our Eastern Maine culture.

To be at Dysart's after midnight was an experience: You could count on the food to be good, the coffee hot and the people-watching to be priceless (or at the very least entertaining.) And that was just to an average kid. I can't imagine the effect closing such a staple overnight will mean for tired truckers and drowsy drivers who count on a place like Dysart's for a much needed recharge on their long journeys across these parts.

It's the end of an era, of sorts. I never thought I'd see the day...