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Monday, May 9, 2011

Juanita's is moving to the River Market

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2011 at 10:56 AM

The view from the patio at the future home of Juanitas
  • Brian Chilson
  • The view from the patio at the future home of Juanita's

Juanita's, the venerable Tex-Mex restaurant and music venue, is leaving the South Main Street location it's called home since 1986 for the River Market and the former home of Bill St., 614 President Clinton Ave. The move will happen in June.

"We were at the end of our lease and couldn't come to terms with our landlord," Juanita's general manager James Synder said. "We were looking at the cost of doing business on 13th Street versus the cost of doing business in the River Market, and moving made sense."

The future location is two stories. Snyder said he anticipates the capacity in the upper level will be larger than Juanita's current music room. "Hopefully, we'll be able to bring in bigger acts," he said.

UPDATE: I just visited the new location and talked with Snyder, co-owner Joe Cates and building owner Dennis Long.

Cates, who co-owns the business with restaurateur Jim O'Brien, said he doesn't anticipate any core changes in the move.

"We're not shaking the Juanita's brand. All we're doing is upgrading the building. Juanita's is a heritage name. We felt that, in order for the Juanita's facility to grow, we needed to go to a newer facility. We had to go to something that was more energy efficient."

The decision to move stemmed from a disagreement with landlord Lisa McNeir, whose late husband Frank McGehee opened Juanita's in 1986.

"We talked to her about remodeling the building, and we couldn't come to terms on who should pay for it, Cates said. "And it could've been four to six months remodeling it, and that would've really hurt business."

Cates expects to be open around June 10 without any gap in service.

"The Juanita's customers won't feel the change. When we turn the switch off on South Main, we'll turn the switch on the next day down here."

Co-owner Joe Cates in the restaurant portion of the future home of Juanitas.
  • Brian Chilson
  • Co-owner Joe Cates in the restaurant portion of the future home of Juanita's.

The restaurant portion of Juanita's, which will be housed in the lower level can accommodate about 75% of the seats Juanita's current dining room can, Snyder estimated. But with a large patio and overflow seating upstairs, the new location could handle more customers than the old, he and Cates said.

The venue space in the upper level is 4,000 square feet and looks cavernous, with hardwood floors and big windows at the north and south ends. A wooden bridge goes from the second level to President Clinton Avenue.

General manager James Snyder and co-owner Joe Cates in the venue portion of the future home of Juantias
  • Brian Chilson
  • General manager James Snyder and co-owner Joe Cates in the venue portion of the future home of Juantia's

The building was built in 1911, according to building owner Dennis Long. His Long Sales Agency purchased it in the early '90s; it burned in 1993, and he spent 15 years remodeling it. Since 2008, he's had two, short-lived restaurants as tenants, Wrought Iron Grill and Bill St. Bar & Grill.

Long cited Juanita's established name as one of the primary reasons he picked the bar and venue instead of other suitors. "It helps if you've got experience," he said.

The venue will be non-smoking, though smoking will be allowed on the patio, Cates and Snyder said.

One new wrinkle: On Saturday nights, after the restaurant closes, the lower level of Juanita's will turn into a comedy club, curated by local comedian Patrick "Angry Patrick" Beam.

The view from Clinton Ave.

Inside the restaurant portion of the future home of Juanitas.
  • Brian Chilson
  • Inside the restaurant portion of the future home of Juanita's.

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Speaking of Juanita's, Coming Soon

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  • Damgoode Pies to take over Boscos space, begin brewing beer

    November 3, 2014
    Potentially good news on the horizon for River Market-area pizza lovers and Central Arkansas's growing legion of beer fans: Little Rock's Damgoode Pies is moving into the space once occupied by Boscos at 500 President Clinton Ave, and the restaurant plans to brew its own beer on premises using the microbrewery equipment installed by the previous occupant. /more/
  • Lost Forty Brewing to open in mid-December

    November 3, 2014
    Lost Forty, the much-anticipated brewery from Yellow Rocket Concepts and the people who brought you Big Orange, Local Lime and ZaZa, should open by mid-December with a grand opening to follow in the spring, according to co-owner Scott McGehee. Large scale brewing is scheduled to begin this week in Lost Forty's 19,000-square-feet space at 501 Byrd Street in the warehouse district east of Interstate 30. Meanwhile, McGehee is prepping the menu for Pint and Pantry, the brewery's tap room restaurant. /more/
  • Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co. coming to downtown Little Rock

    October 20, 2014
    Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co., a new restaurant specializing in traditional Chinese food, is planning to open in downtown Little Rock in mid-December in the former home of Your Mama's Good Food, according to assistant manager and business development manager Rebecca Yan. The menu will include handmade dumplings, steamed buns and hand-stretched noodles. Service will cafeteria style, similar to Chipotle, where diners travel along a line and pick a base, a protein, a spice-level and among various sides of vegetables — likely including taro chips, pickles and slaw — that will change with the seasons. /more/
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More by Lindsey Millar

  • Heights Taco & Tamale eyeing early 2015 opening

    Heights Taco & Tamale Company, the new Tex-Mex restaurant from Yellow Rocket Concepts, the restaurant group behind Big Orange, Local Lime, Lost Fort Brewing and ZAZA, is planning to open February 2015. The restaurant is located at 5805 Kavanaugh Boulevard in the former home of Browning’s.
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