Restaurant on Telegraph to Move Due to Financial Strain

Photo: Mario's La Fiesta will close its Telegraph Avenue location due to the recent economic downturn. In April, the restaurant plans to move to its second location on Haste Street.
Alexander Ritchie/Photo
Mario's La Fiesta will close its Telegraph Avenue location due to the recent economic downturn. In April, the restaurant plans to move to its second location on Haste Street.

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Mexican food and music filled Mario's La Fiesta as the restaurant celebrated its 50th anniversary Sunday. However, the festivities came with an announcement that the business will close its Telegraph Avenue location.

Financial difficulties will force Mario's, which is currently run from its main dining room on Telegraph Avenue, to move operations to its banquet room on Haste Street in April.

Like many small restaurant owners across the country, co-owners Mario and Rosalinda Tejada are trying to keep costs low during the economic downturn by consolidating space.

"We can't afford to keep two places," said Mario Tejada. "Business has been dropping and dropping, and we couldn't pay rent, insurance and utilities at both locations."

Mario Tejada said he and his wife made the decision to move operations to the Haste Street banquet room last year.

Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, said the Sunglass Hut was the only business on Telegraph Avenue to relocate recently. However, he said the effects of the economic downturn are only beginning to be seen.

"The effect will be felt more this year than last year," Peterson said. "The economy started getting bad in about September, and (a recession) ... doesn't usually put a business out of business (immediately)."

Peterson said the financial difficulties of Mario's and Telegraph stores are consistent with other business districts in the city.

"I don't think Telegraph (Avenue) has been affected more than other business districts. I get the sense that it's consistent with the rest of the city," he said.

In early January, Cafe de la Paz, a tapas and "Nuevo Latino" restaurant that operated in North Berkeley for 15 years, closed its doors in light of the recession.

Mario's is known for pioneering authentic Mexican cuisine at a time when there were fewer such restaurants in the area, according to the Tejadas.

"Fifty years ago, there weren't many Mexican restaurants with original Mexican food, the kind you have at home and Mexico," Mario Tejada said. "We don't carry watered down hot sauce. If you ask for hot sauce, you get hot sauce."

Mario Tejada said he is worried that the large population of UC Berkeley students who make up the majority of his customer base may not frequent the Haste Street location as regularly as the Telegraph Avenue location.

But Chris McCormick, a UC Berkeley senior who says he stops at Mario's between classes at least twice a week, said the relocation will not prevent him and his friends from grabbing their favorite meals on the menu.

"It's the most affordable Mexican food in the area, and it's much better than Chipotle," he said.

Tags: MARIO'S LA FIESTA, TELEGRAPH AVENUE


Contact Hadas Goshen at [email protected]



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