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Popular Chandler restaurant closing for good because of COVID-19

Another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, El Zocalo Mexican Grill in downtown Chandler is closing permanently.

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Its name means “The great meeting place”, and for more than 20 years, this Chandler restaurant held true to its name, until COVID-19 came along.

The idyllic spot in downtown Chandler boasted a cozy and intimate patio that built a reputation for budding romance.

“The patio, it was Mexico, man,” said owner Obed De La Cruz. “It had that feel: old walls, high walls, hacienda, very private, very secluded. It was beautiful, man. Beautiful.”

But, as of Wednesday, patrons of El Zocalo Mexican Grill can count it as another casualty of COVID-19, as De La Cruz announced El Zocalo is closing its doors, permanently.

“Yeah, it’s sad. I’m still in disbelief. I don’t know whether to cry or….” De La Cruz’s voice trailed off, at a loss for words and still unsure about his emotions since announcing the closure.

By his estimate, El Zocalo Mexican Grill was costing him more than $400,000 since businesses were told to switch to take-out only menus. El Zocalo’s location relies on the normal, heavy foot traffic of downtown Chandler. Take-out wasn’t cutting it.

“I would have loved to have stayed,” De La Cruz said. “We probably would have stayed if this COVID wouldn’t have come along, but that was the dagger was the COVID.”

With El Zocalo shut down, the idea of a new version of Zocalo is possible.

Obed De La Cruz hopes that is something that could be on the horizon. For now, he is going to watch what the “new normal” becomes with Valley dining.  If the opportunity ever comes his way, he plans on taking it.

“So many families are here because of Zocalo. I read a comment one time where: ‘We came, we danced, we sat on the patio, we drank margaritas and fell in love again,’ Zocalo was that kind of place.”

For now, De La Cruz is focused on steering his other restaurants, PHX Burrito House, El Sol Mexican Café and Mangos Mexican Café through this pandemic and coming out stronger on the other side.

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