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Mexicali Rosa’s is Closing and a New Restaurant Opening in its Place

The RustiCo. team is doing extensive renovations to convert the former Mexicali Rosa's into a new restaurant and brewery. Image: submitted.

FREDERICTON – Mexicali Rosa’s is closing before Christmas and a new restaurant will open in its place, one of the new owners announced Thursday.

Mike Babineau, who just bought Mexicali Rosa’s several weeks ago with his business partner Gabby Elzayat, said they decided to close after assessing the cost of renovations and rebranding they felt would be necessary to make it a success.

“The previous owner was going to close the restaurant, but we decided to hang tight for a few weeks and see if we wanted to continue with it or if we wanted to do something different,” said Babineau in a phone interview. “We decided that it was best if we just closed the restaurant.”

Babineau and Elzayat currently own two other places together as well – Cora downtown and Cannon’s Cross Pub on the north side.

Babineau also used to own The Blue Door, but it was shut down two years ago. He learned a valuable lesson from that experience that informed his decision to close Mexicali Rosa’s.

“[It] reminds me of The Blue Door,” he said. “We had taken that over when it wasn’t doing as well as it had in it’s heyday. We were going to try and revive it. It lingered a bit too long without any changes, so when we came in, unfortunately, we just couldn’t revive it. So I didn’t want to take that risk again with Mexis.”

Babineau is closing Mexicali Rosa’s with misgivings, though, because he got his start with the once-popular restaurant chain.

“I started my career at Mexis here in Fredericton,” he said. “So it’s bittersweet to be closing it after working there for four and a half years. I started washing dishes there and worked my way up.”

But he is looking toward the future now and recognizes the opportunity to create something new in a revitalized downtown.

“The location is highly visible and has a wonderful patio,” he said. “We just felt it was underutilized for the location…With all the new microbreweries opening like Graystone, they’ve really helped develop the west end of the downtown. Putting something new in there to help develop that area was really the best call for us at this time.”

Babineau said they’ll reveal the name and style of the restaurant in the new year. Right now they’re focused on hiring an executive chef and settling on a design for space.

It will be a larger operation than Mexicali Rosa’s. It currently employs 10 people and Babineau hopes the new restaurant will have closer to 40 staff members.

“We anticipate a big summer,” he said. “That patio is amazing. It’s one of the best in the city. We’ll also use the architecture of that building to our advantage, where it gets sun all day.”

Babineau says downtown Fredericton has a vibrant restaurant and pub scene, and they want to be part of making it even better.

“We want to create something fresh for the city, something that will add value to the downtown of Fredericton,” he said. “There’s been a lot of good new restaurants. There’s a zero vacancy rate downtown and that’s a good sign that we’re doing things right. We’re excited that we’re going to add to that and create something that’s not here [already].”

Mexicali Rosa’s will close December 23. Babineau said it will honour any remaining gift certificates in the new restaurant, which they plan to open in the spring.