Mexican food chain El Torito closed its Santa Barbara location at 29 E. Cabrillo Boulevard on Monday because it could not secure a long-term lease, according to a spokesperson from its parent company, Real Mex Restaurants.
The ocean-facing restaurant, whose Yelp reviews date back to 2007, bordered the Cabrillo Boulevard Bridge project and neighbored La Entrada hotel’s construction site. In 2014, El Torito was one of four city restaurants to be cited for selling alcohol to minors undercover with the Santa Barbara police.
Customers who call the Santa Barbara restaurant now receive an automated message stating, “Unfortunately we have closed our business.” They are directed to El Torito’s nearest location at 1720 E. Ventura Boulevard in Oxnard, where a manager said Monday they had just found out about the closure. The manager also said the Santa Barbara closure comes after two El Torito locations in Ventura and Thousand Oaks shut down.
There are 25 other El Torito restaurants; they are all owned by Orange County-based Real Mex Restaurants, the largest operator of full-service Mexican food restaurants in the country. Among others, Real Mex Restaurants owns Chevys Fresh Mex, Acapulco Cantina, and Las Brisas Restaurant in Laguna Beach.
Jared Dougherty, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Real Mex Restaurants, said the company considered a potential re-branding of its Santa Barbara location but was unable to secure a long-term lease. Although Dougherty said, “we were able to assist in finding positions for interested employees at our other area location,” multiple employees told The Independent this was not the case. These laid off employees said they were merely told by managers at El Torito’s Santa Barbara location that they could apply at one of Real Mex’s other restaurants. The closest is an El Torito in Oxnard.