Mainstreet Daily News, in a collaboration with Noel Leroux, founder of Gainesville Downtown, is spotlighting downtown businesses to learn how each one is coping with the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation.
April is usually the busiest month of the year at Boca Fiesta, the Mexican-inspired restaurant next door to the Hippodrome Theatre. And with Cinco de Mayo and graduation just around the corner, business should be booming for co-owners Warren Oakes and Jacob Ihde.
The coronavirus, however, has brought orders of quesadillas and burritos --- not to mention margaritas and other libations --- to almost a screeching halt.
"We have good days and we have slow days," Ihde told gainesvilledowntown.com. Oakes nodded and added: "We're taking it one day at a time."
Although the two men closed their restaurant to spend Easter with their families, Boca Fiesta is open daily from 4-9 p.m. for takeout and delivery with a "limited edition" menu.
Order ahead by calling 352.336.TACO (8226). A staff member will bring the order to you outside the restaurant at 232 SE 1st St. (The front entrance faces the courtyard on the west side of the Hippodrome.)
To order online, click on the delivery/pickup link at bocafiesta.com during business hours. Delivery is free when ordered through the restaurant. Oakes had to excuse himself on Saturday to deliver an order to his mother and sister!
In addition to food and beverages, Oakes and Ihde also would have live music and other events in The Backyard entertainment venue between Boca Fiesta and Palomino Pool Hall. The Backyard is shut down.
"We had so many things on our calendar that just got wiped out," Oakes said. "You can't deliver karaoke night or trivia night to someone's house."
At least Oakes and Ihde are still in business.
Next door at Palomino, the pool tables have been silent for almost a month. To help pay employees, Palomino owners Jeff McMullen and Mitchell Eadens are encouraging patrons to purchase special T-shirts through their Palomino Pool Hall Facebook page. The three establishments had to let go more than 70 employees during the past month. At Boca Fiesta, all tips received are going into a fund for out-of-work employees.
"I feel terrible people are not getting their regular paychecks," Ihde said. "Something coming in is better than nothing coming in," Oakes said.
Boca Fiesta will mark its 11th anniversary on June 1, hopefully with a fiesta. Oakes said he misses the crowds that his restaurant attracted.
"I just attended my first video birthday party," he said. "You lose something in the translation."
Noel Leroux is the publisher of gainesvilledowntown.com, a website dedicated to covering all things downtown. His mission is to inform, entertain and engage readers with compelling articles about arts, entertainment, and the foodie scene in Gainesville.