Tuesday, December 25, 2018

[ADIOS!] Tijuana Garage Abruptly Closes in Little 5 Points

Staff at Little 5 Points bar and restaurant Tijuana Garage got a rude awakening earlier this week when they were reportedly informed at the restaurant's Christmas party that they were all out of a job.  The restaurant, located on Moreland Avenue, closed effective December 22, after fifteen years in business.  Sibling concept Front Page News remains open.

Many former staff and fellow restaurant employees took to social media over the weekend to voice their frustration and anger with the abrupt closure so close to Christmas.  Rumors circulated throughout the weekend about what owner Josh Sagarin may have planned for the shuttered restaurant, with some indicating that a complete redevelopment of the site is planned, while others claim that a number of concepts have looked into opening in the space.  

The restaurant posted the following message to their official Facebook page Saturday afternoon:

"All good things must come to an end.  Sadly, after 15 years serving the Inman Park, Candler Park and Little 5 Points communities, we have decided to close Tijuana garage after 12/21/2018. Please watch our location for a new restaurant opening spring-summer 2019!"
Surprisingly, the restaurant, together with Front Page News, is hosting the 7th Annual "New Beer's Eve" on Monday, December 31.  The event is put on by Atlanta Beer Festivals, and was apparently planned well in advance, which begs the question why ownership would so abruptly close.  

Tijuana Garage, like Front Page News next door, were once together one of Atlanta's earliest Ford dealerships.  

Local restaurant sources tell ToNeTo Atlanta that Tijuana Garage has never performed "well," and that in recent years its performance worsened to the point where closure was seemingly the only move.  

Real estate sources indicate that while Sagarin has shown the space to assorted brokers and restaurateurs, no deal for a replacement tenant or redevelopment is in place yet.  

Sagarin closed his Midtown outpost of Front Page News on Crescent Avenue in October 2017.  Publico, a Columbia, South Carolina-based Latin-Asian eatery opened in the former space this past May.  

Are you surprised that Tijuana Garage closed?  Are you a former Tijuana Garage employee with more information on the reason for the closure?  What do you think should open in place of Tijuana Garage?  Do you work at a restaurant that is currently hiring and could provide employment to the many displaced former Tijuana Garage employees?

Please share your thoughts below  


Anonymous said...

The Announcement of closure was made at a Staff Meeting, not a Holiday Party.

Anonymous said...

Atlanta has to have some of the absolute dumbest, worst restaurant owners and managers in the country. Incompetent and rude.

Unknown said...

Ah - the overpriced, underwhelming Tex-Mex place only enjoyed by those from Roswell, Lawrenceville or above. I do not know one person within a 5-mile radius that ever sought that place out, nevermind actually enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

@Unknown - HUH?? You're saying people from the suburbs would bypass probably 100 different (mostly better) Mexican restaurants to go to Tijuana Garage? Why? Because it's in L5P and thus must be a "cool" place to go? Your view of those who live in the suburbs is clearly absurd.

Anonymous said...

As a former long term employee of this establishment, I can confirm that this is EXACTLY the clientele. Lol

Josh @ Front Page said...

I want to fill in blanks and dispel rumors about the closing of after a protracted attempt to save the business.

All of the private events that were planned for Tijuana Garage including the Atlanta Beer Festival's, “ New Beer’s Eve” event on Dec 31, 2018 will go on as scheduled.
Despite baseless rumors,there are no plans to demolish any of the buildings, or to build condos on site. The landlord, has listed the restaurant space for lease and there is already strong interest in space.

Back in 2003, when we opened Tijuana Garage, we wanted to build a place where we could have a drink on the patio with our friends and our kids, I said when it stopped being fun, it was time to let someone else have the space. After fifteen years, that time arrived. It really arrived six months ago, but the managers and I really tried to stave off the inevitable, perhaps for too long.

By 2016, with the development on the Belt Line, the opening of Krog Street, and Ponce City Markets, and the addition of so many excellent restaurants in the area, Tijuana Garage began to feel dated. A slow but steady loss in business had begun, especially in our core neighborhood and family business.
The rapidly rising cost of in-town living and the national the crackdown on immigration gutted our employee pool. Hiring staff became far more difficult, a trend that continues today. Through 2015 and 2016 we tried various promotions, music, trivia nights and menus changes, the talent pool continued to dry up. In late 2017, we decided to make one final shot at reviving Tijuana Garage.

We invested a lot of sweat, time, and hard work into rebuilding sales. We owed it to our customers, and to the people working for us. Sales started off strong, but as spring turned in to a rain drenched summer, sales continued their decline. By late August of 2018, we planned to close Tijuana Garage following our last hurrah, The Little Five Points Halloween Festival and Parade in October. In retrospect, a closing date I should have held to.
In October a possible manager led buy-out and take over was floated. The manager had access to funds, and a plan to purchase the restaurant. A plan that allowed Tijuana to continue with no jobs lost seemed worth looking into. We prepared to execute a sale to new operators, only to have the deal evaporate.

The restaurant and I were totally tapped out. We had run through all of the restaurant's funds, and an additional $100,000 of personal funds. By the end of the month wouldn't be able to make payroll. Rent, utilities and over $10,000 in licenses and permits would be due by January first. It was insurmountable. We made the decision to finally close Tijuana Garage the first week of December.

We had large holiday events already booked for December 18-21, the events would be difficult to relocate on short notice, and our tipped employees could use the money they would make, we pushed the final closing date to Friday, December 21st, 2018.

At the monthly employee meeting, we announced Tijuana Garage would not reopen after our Christmas break. The December meeting includes a "white elephant gift exchange," it wasn't an ideal time to break the news, but the alternative would have been emails or a note on a locked door. In person we were able to find positions or solid leads for most of our employees.

Tijuana Garage will reopen for one final event, the Atlanta Beer Festival, "New Beers Eve" party, on Dec 31st. After 15 years, and an incredibly stressful 2018, when I the lock doors to Tijuana Garage for the last time on December 31, it will be bittersweet. Tijuana Garage was in a great location, in a great neighborhood. I am confident the landlord will find a great new restaurant, with a inspired new operator. The space will be filled with laughter, great food and happy guests in no time.

Again, I just want to thank all of our great patrons and employees over the last 15 years. It has been a privilege.

Thanks for the memories,

Josh Sagarin

Anonymous said...

I am sure, as a previous restaurant manager, that some staff members knew about it prior to the first announcement

Anonymous said...

Glad to see it close being I know of one waiter, that will not be named that is a thief and management turned a blind eye

Kramerica said...

I managed FPN in Midtown and then both FPN in L5P and Tijuana Garage, and can absolutely say that Josh and his Director of Operations, Chris, tried EXTREMELY hard to keep the doors open. We all worked our asses off, re-training staff, switching out management, bringing over the ENTIRE crew from FPN Midtown, re-writing the menu, bringing back the Drag Show, on and on and on. They/we tried. None of us wanted to admit failure (though, 15 years is no failure), and we all wanted to see TG turned around and looking like it did in its glory days. Josh and Chris paid for some of the best managers the company ever had (and some of the best in hospitality, period) to try their hand at fixing the issues, but it just didn't happen. To say that he is a monster that was out to screw everyone before Christmas is ridiculous. It doesn't even pass the logic test... why would he risk the backlash when he has another restaurant literally next door that could suffer from the bad press? Josh says he decided it was over 6 months ago, but what he didn't say is that we had been actively and desperately trying to fix it for at least a year before that... I know... I was there. I was the General Manager and I tried very hard. My staff was extremely happy in Midtown, but when the building had to be rebuilt and they chose to close, I believed in Josh and the concept enough to come over to L5P and bring my entire staff... which Josh hired. I am sure that if he could take on the additional staff after closing TG (and if they were solid employees), he would have moved them over to FPN. In fact, I KNOW that nearly the entire kitchen is now at FPN. So, before reacting emotionally, it pays to know the history and the behind the scenes version. I learned an incredible amount from Josh and Chris and I hate that TG had to close... but, it did. And, although I personally would've tried to wait until the day after Christmas... I am not the one losing over 2 grand a day by keeping it open. Ultimately, Josh did what had to be done. TG was dated and spent.

Anonymous said...

I never understood why you all closed FPN in Midtown under the ruse that it would be reopening. The way he handled that whole thing was a bit dishonest.

Anonymous said...

Josh said "The rapidly rising cost of in-town living and the national the crackdown on immigration gutted our employee pool. Hiring staff became far more difficult, a trend that continues today."

Hmmm, what immigrants are you referring to? If you're referring to Mexican immigrants, you've probably had labor shortages well before the current administration came along. Mexican immigration to the US declined between 2000-2014 or so (per migrationpolicy.org). Thus, if you didn't have labor issues until "the national crackdown on immigration" happened, I'd say the problem is more about the sheer quantity of new restaurants opening up that's created a shortage.

Of course, I know you're not talking about illegal immigrants-- those that migrationpolicy.org might not know about to include in their data -- right?

I'm no Trump fan -- but blindly blaming administrations on things just adds more division in this country that not.

InAtl said...

True the crackdown started during the Bush Jr. Years when 1 of the responses to 9/11 was the Creation of Homeland Security and ICE under it , basically a national police force with the ability to imprison people based on administrative proceedures. We always had and still do have CBP protecting the borders but ICE doing raids and picking up people for driving without a license is a post 2001 development. And true immigration rates have declined. Also true is our population is aging and the work aged population is shrinking in % terms. Also true is that Trump, Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller have upped deportation rates and thus rhe immigration pool and work force pool is shrinking. Throw in full employment levels and the deportations are making it tougher to find good employees. Thus it's a valid negative factor to cite and he did not mention Trump. But I will Trump listens to Stephen Miller and other race baiting folks who are pursuing policies that place political goals over good policy, whether it be economics or plan old human decency. If you are in the restaurant industry or like me have lived through seeing fathers torn from their families it alters one's view. Imagine having a valued long time employee or loved one and being unable to help them attain status due to Immigration Policies that just do not work and are in no one's best interest.

fbenario said...

Eric, that is a GREAT summary of the current situation and how it came to be.

Anonymous said...

SMH. Be honest. These people (illegals) are not your "family" or friends, they are cheap modern day SLAVE labor that you can exploit.

Anonymous said...

Obama has been out of office for two years and people are still fixated on him like the girl that turned them down for a date in 11th grade. There's nothing worse than trying to troll when you're not funny, clever or smart enough to do it properly.

Anonymous said...

@ 5:42 Bless your heart! Just admit you worship Obama.

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