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Iconic Midvale Mexican Restaurant struggling to stay open

El Farol has been around for 52 years
Posted at 12:24 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 16:16:22-04

MIDVALE, Utah — We’re covering the stories that are making a difference in the lives of those having a hard time making ends meet.

It’s part of our series called "The Rebound."

El Farol Mexican Restaurant has been a fixture in Midvale for 52 years, but now the family that operates it is struggling to keep their restaurant open.

COVID-19 has pushed Hispanic owned business owners to the brink of shutting down.

Thanks to loyal customers, El Farol is hanging on, but barely.

Dolores Medina and her husband Roberto operate El Farol.

"I’m the third generation owner of the family," Dolores said. "My kids have worked here and I started working for El Farol since I was 13."

Work has slowed down due to the coronavirus outbreak. They’re still open for takeout and delivery, but Dolores says they’re barely scraping by.

"Sales have dropped 30 percent. In the beginning, it was 50 percent," she said.

Financial lifelines aren’t coming fast enough.

"I applied for three different programs and none have come through," Dolores said.

Desperate for help, Dolores has turned to the Suazo Business Center.

"This is something we’re all navigating together without really knowing how it’s going to end up," said Silvia Castro, Executive Director of the center.

She says the majority of her Hispanic business owners are in the service industry, and like Dolores, many haven’t qualified for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

"What we’re doing right now is basically getting them ready for the second round," Castro said.

To soften the blow for now, Castro has encouraged the El Farol owner to change her business strategy by focusing more on an online presence.

"She switched over to meals for the family," Castro said. "Also, she’s starting to sell some of the sauces they sell."

Dolores wants to carry on the family legacy, and her loyal customers are helping share the burden.

"Like Mr. Rogers says, 'look for the helpers they’re always going to be there,'" she said with a tear in her eye. "We’ve had a lot of helpers and that’s why we’re still around. Thanks everyone!" she added while forming a heart sign with her gloved hands.

Another resource that could help businesses like El Farol and others owned by minority groups is a multicultural task force recently appointed by Governor Herbert.