Sunny Brae’s Fiesta Café Closes – January 18, 2012
Kevin L. Hoover
SUNNY BRAE – Sunny Brae residents were shocked last week when one of its “downtown” restaurants closed with little warning. A sign in the door of Fiesta Café announced the Dec. 30 closure of the Mexican restaurant, located in a former bank on Crescent Way.
Fiesta fans registered their sadness at Fiesta’s passing on the Eye’s Facebook page. “Boo. They were great,” said Theresa McLaren. “Our family spent many a happy, delicious time inside those walls.” said Fionnuisce Saoirse.
“We know how people feel,” Rogelio said. “We love that place.”
Rogelio said the decision to consolidate at the sister restaurant, the Fiesta Grill and Cantina on Janes Road, came after a combination of difficult short- and long-term circumstances.
The Sunny Brae restaurant recently lost two cooks in one month. Rogelio said he had spent three months training one of them, only to have the cook quit and go to work for a competing restaurant because it offered 50 cents more per hour.
Apart from that, he said, he and his wife Guillermina had been at it 29 years and that the grind of daily commuting between the Sunny Brae Fiesta and the Fiesta Grill was taking a toll.
“My number one priority was my wife not going back and forth,” he said.
Further, their kids are now in college, and have no plans to take over the business when the Lunas retire. “The kids aren’t following in our steps,” he said.
All in all, Rogelio said, “We had to choose one of the places.”
They settled on the Janes Road restaurant because, with its full liquor license and private bar, it offers more features and flexibility. It is also able to absorb five of the 15 former Sunny Brae employees, and possibly more.
Hours at the Fiesta Grill and Cantina are Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Rogelio said he’d like to expand to Sunday service as well.
Looking back, Rogelio is proud that some who once worked at Fiesta have now gone on to start successful restaurants of their own, including Guillermina’s sisters, Luzmila and Carmela Sandoval.
“We are so proud that they’re doing so well,” he said. “They put their own spice, their own thing into it.”
As for the Sunny Brae restaurant property, which he and Guillermina co-own, he has had “three or four” inquiries from potential successors who would rent it and start their own eateries.
Rogelio said that after observing the packed coffee shops in the Plaza every morning, something other than another Mexican restaurant should move in.
“I want to see something else, like a breakfast place,” he said.
The owner of Sunny Brae Center, Rogelio has ideas for expanding that someday as well, and possibly adding buildings. He has spoken in the past of creating a new restaurant in what is now the center’s parking lot.
“I wanted to combine everything,” he said. “I’m always dreaming. I tell people, you have to have a dream.”
Guillermina said she was grateful to all of the Sunny Brae Fiesta’s loyal customers.
“I thank everybody,” she said. “They have been so supportive over the years.”