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Cafe Herrera on Square closes

Profile image for By Jenna Duncan
By Jenna Duncan

Offshoot of Dallas Tex-Mex restaurant just opened in March

Cafe Herrera, a Tex-Mex restaurant on the Square, closed abruptly Friday after its rent went unpaid.

A letter dated Friday has been posted in the window, notifying owner Gil Bonifaz that the locks had been changed because he did not pay rent.

The restaurant, which opened in March, had been struggling for months, said Greg Johnson, CEO of Verus Real Estate Advisors, which oversees the property.

Johnson said the business had trouble from the start because of reported bad service, but he tried to work with the business. For example, Verus bought everything inside the restaurant, including the $380,000 kitchen, to help the restaurant’s cash flow.

“You work with your tenant as a partner — we restructured the lease, gave some free rent to try and get them to turn a profit, but it never got better,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if they came out of the gate with poor service and weren’t able to recover.”

In the first 60 days, Johnson said he heard complaints from friends and associates about the restaurant’s service, which he communicated to Bonifaz and the general manager, Jason Marquez.

Casey Schultz, an employee at the Subway sandwich shop next door, said she sometimes had disgruntled customers come into Subway after having problems at Cafe Herrera, such as not getting seated. She said Cafe Herrera employees also told her there were problems with management at the restaurant.

Last week, employees set up a table outside giving away coupons and free chips and salsa to passers-by, Schultz said. The efforts didn’t seem to work, and Thursday was the last day the restaurant was open.

Employees showed up for work at 8 a.m. Friday and saw the letter posted in the window, Schultz said.

The letter was a matter of protocol for this type of situation, Johnson said.

“When you reach the point as a landlord where you feel like you have no other choice but to change the locks because the tenant is in default and hasn’t paid, usually you reach a point when the communication breaks down, and as a landlord, you feel like you might be at risk,” Johnson said. “If we have to change the locks for lack of payment of rent, it’s because we’ve been working at it for a really long time.”

Someone had put a sign over the letter on Friday or Saturday, saying the business was having technical difficulties and would be closed until 3 p.m. By Saturday afternoon, someone had marked through “3 p.m.”

The restaurant had opened in March this year after almost two years of construction and renovation to the storefront at the corner of Oak and Locust streets. This was the second restaurant for Bonifaz, whose great-grandmother opened Herrera’s Restaurant in Dallas in 1971.

That restaurant, which had changed its name to Herrera’s Cafe, closed in August after owners couldn’t renegotiate a lease. The family had originally planned to move the restaurant to another location in Dallas but backed out of the deal.

Bonifaz did not return multiple requests for comment.

The space at 100 W. Oak St. might not be vacant long, though, Johnson said.

While the property has not been officially listed, he said he is in talks with a few other restaurant owners who want the location.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.