Barrio Tacos Looks to Open by August on Albert Ave.

Monday, January 7, 2019, 7:25 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Barrio Tacos out of Ohio is hoping to open its first Michigan location in the new Center City District retail space along Albert Avenue by August.

The chain features custom-order tacos, tequilas, and whiskeys, and offers in-restaurant dining as well as take-out food. The image above is of the Willoughby, Ohio, location.

Jake Hawley, Director of Operations for Barrio Restaurants and Food Trucks, tells ELi that plans are moving along for the restaurant, and that the company wants to make sure to open before the start of the 2019-2020 academic school year.

“Everything is going to have to fall in line,” he told ELi by phone last week, “but we really need to hit that deadline.”

The Center City District design calls for a covered walkway running from Albert Avenue to the alley where the back door of the small-format Target store will be. (The front of Target will be on Grand River Avenue.) Hawley says the restaurant will be located on one of the corners where that pass-through meets the sidewalk on Albert Avenue.

That will allow Barrio Tacos to have “a pretty big patio space” because part of it will be on the sidewalk and part of it will be in the internal walkway.

Hawley says the capacity is still be determined but he expects that the inside space will seat 120-140 people, and the outdoor space will seat another 60-80.

Because it will serve alcohol, the operation will require not only a liquor license but also a Special Use Permit (SUP) from the City of East Lansing, which at least four members of Council must approve. Council is supposed to take into account, in granting an SUP for an alcohol-serving establishment, proximity to other establishments serving alcohol, among other considerations.

Hawley says that City staff and elected officials seem “excited and supportive” of the Center City District project, so he does not anticipate a problem obtaining the SUP.

The organization currently operates in six locations, including one restaurant opened relatively recently in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The Barrio Tacos media team has produced a video specifically announcing the plan to come to East Lansing.

Hawley tells ELi, “We’re excited to make the move up there. [Center City] is going to be a great project for the city in general, and we are looking forward to being part of that project.”

ELi reported in November that Foster Coffee will also be occupying retail space along Albert Avenue, when construction on the $135 million Center City District project is complete.

The new Albert Avenue retail space (shown under construction above) sits on public land that is being leased by the City of East Lansing to the developer under a 49-year lease agreed to by City Council. (Had the public land been sold, it would have required voter approval, but according to the City Attorney, the City Charter does not require voter approval for a lease agreement approved by Council.)

The Albert Avenue retail space is being topped by what will be four stories of public parking, starting on the second floor and accessed by a ramp off Albert Avenue.

Above the parking garage will be rental housing restricted to people aged 55 and up. The developers are currently seeking tenants for those apartments, as well as for the apartments to be located along Grand River Avenue above the Target store.

The Albert Avenue senior apartment building is called Newman Lofts, and the Grand River Avenue market-rate housing is called The Landmark.

First two photos courtesy of Barrio Tacos.