El Mariachi bids farewell to community after 41 years

13-year-old creates relocation fund for beloved Mexican eatery


El Mariachi, a family-owned Mexican eatery on Sunrise Highway, last week announced it would close its doors after serving Rockville Centre patrons for 41 years.

The restaurant owners posted on the business’s Facebook page on April 4 that El Mariachi would have its last fiesta weekend this Friday and Saturday after being forced to move out because the rent became too high.

“While our hearts are broken, still, they are filled with gratitude to you for all that we’ve experienced together,” the online letter stated. “. . . There aren’t any words to convey to you how as we prepare for this, when we’ve thought the tears might ease, they’ve only grown more.”

The business lost its lease, the letter added, noting that business owners vying for the restaurant’s space made “irresistible monetary offers.”

In two days, El Mariachi’s Facebook 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.

Liz Greco-Salazar, an owner of the restaurant, told the Herald that loyal customers have been lining up outside the restaurant before it has opened the last few days to say goodbye. The eatery, she added, has been running out of food “as quick as we make it.”

“We’ve been overwhelmed and truly humbled by all the outpouring of love and support from the community,” she wrote to the Herald. “We’ve been swamped with an influx of our customers wanting to stop in to eat and drink and share their stories before we close.”

Among those patrons was the Ebel family, from Oceanside. Michelle Ebel said she and her husband, Ron, have dined at the restaurant over the past 20 years. Devastated when they heard El Mariachi would be closing, they went on Saturday for one last time.

“Everybody was hugging the owners and the place was packed, and people were hanging out at the bar,” Ebel said. “... Even if you weren’t somebody who frequented the restaurant, just being there and waiting for a table, you could see the emotions that were just overflowing in there.”

Ebel said that her 13-year-old son, Nick, was confused about why a packed restaurant had to close. He had the idea to start an El Mariachi Relocation Fund page on GoFundMe.com, which he created while at the restaurant. In its first three days, the page collected $1,195.

“It made me feel really happy and really good to know that other people cared and wanted to help the family tradition going,” Nick said of seeing the first few donations roll in.

Greco-Salazar said that large crowds filled the restaurant on Sunday, some waiting two hours to be served, “but were just happy to be inside soaking up the experience that would soon end forever.”

She noted that there are no immediate plans to relocate, but she and the other owners have received hundreds of requests from customers to move to nearby towns, including Baldwin, Malverne, Levittown, Valley Stream, Freeport and, most commonly, Lynbrook.

“You know, we knew we had some fans, but we never realized how many lives we apparently touched,” Greco-Salazar wrote to the Herald. “Didn’t realize how deep and wide our family went.”

El Mariachi’s Early Cinco de Mayo Farewell Celebration will take place in the restaurant’s courtyard on April 13 and 14, and will feature live music from Copy Cat and Jerry and the Newcomers. Due to the expected volume, the eatery will not be taking reservations.

The landlord could not be reached. To donate to the relocation fund, visit www.gofundme.com/el-mariachi-relocation-fund.