The family that owned El Mariachi, a Mexican restaurant in Rockville Centre that closed after 41 years, has no plans to reopen, and they are not happy with a relative involved with opening a new Oceanside eatery with a similar name.
El Mariachi, formerly at 213 Sunrise Highway, closed in April after the owners posted on Facebook that the rent became too high. In two days, the post had more than 1,000 shares and 1,000 comments, as many residents reminisced about the special occasions and dinners they enjoyed at the local landmark.
“There have been recent rumors of the original owners of El Mariachi opening a location in a different town,” El Mariachi wrote on Facebook on July 28, noting that a member of the family was involved with another restaurant in a nearby community.
Fernando Salazar confirmed to the Herald that he’s an employee at Lil Mariachi. “I just decided to open up a place on my own,” he said. “I didn’t name it the same that we had [in Rockville Centre.]. …I went with Lil Mariachi. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Aug. 10 at Lil Mariachi on Long Beach Road. “The rest of the Salazar family is not involved in this collaboration,” El Mariachi wrote on Facebook.
Managers of the former Rockville Centre restaurant wrote to the Herald that former El Mariachi customers became confused by what was being advertised as a “grand reopening.”
Lil Mariachi’s manager, who identified himself only as Rob, said it was the reopening of the bar that already existed at the site.
A message to the Herald, attributed only to El Mariachi management, said that their relative “has given this business owner use of our menu and we understand has allowed him to use a variation of our name. …The original family is not in favor of our relative having given him use of our proprietary methods and recipes without proper royalties and compensation.”
Salazar said a few former workers at El Mariachi joined him at Lil Mariachi, including one of the main chefs. “There’s nothing illegal about that I don’t think,” he said with a laugh.
Nick Ebel, 13, of Oceanside, started an El Mariachi Relocation Fund page on GoFundMe.com. The page collected $1,525. Nick’s mother, Michelle, said she gave the donations to the Salazar family. El Mariachi management said that they asked the fund facilitators if they could use the donations to offset “the tremendous amount of legal fees…during our fight to save our restaurant,” and that they were given permission.
The restaurant owners did not elaborate on the legal battle. They have not responded to the Herald’s requests to speak to their lawyer.
“We love you all and wished we could have given you a location that brought us all together under one roof again,” El Mariachi posted on Facebook, “as there will never be another El Mariachi without its entire family as one.”