It’s hard to imagine Commercial Drive without La Mezcaleria. When it launched in the first week of April, 2013, it was an instant success with the neighbourhood, so much so that it opened a second location in Gastown in 2015. The Mexican restaurant still plays to a full house each night, but five years ago this week, back when it was still very much under construction, it looked like it might never actually open.
It was then that I shot these photographs of the barren, unfinished space on a soaking day (much like today), catching the exhausted-looking ownership as they were patiently waiting – as they had been for nine months – for an electrical upgrade that would allow them to launch. See the smiles they’re wearing in the photos below? They’re not real. They were stressing in big way. Here’s the story, as it was told to me back then:
You may have already heard that the La Taqueria crew are opening another location. This time around we can expect an old school Mexican diner and Oaxacan-style Mezcaleria featuring everything from tostadas and enchilidas to cold beer and hard-to-find find Mezcals (consulting chef Tina Fineza is doing the menu). It’s going into the old Wazubees location on The Drive, a lovely old spot with garage frontage, high ceilings, and lots of natural light (much of which is provided by a huge skylight). It’s been near completion for a while now, and by that I mean the kitchen is installed, the floor has been laid with imported gorgeous Guadalajara green tiles and the 55 seats are ready for their first bums. “Once we get the electricity we need,” co-owner Marcelo Romero says with a shrug, “we should be ready in 15 days.”
And therein lies the trouble. The space has insufficient electricity, and they’ve been waiting to have it upgraded for nearly nine months. Romero claims – with no small amount of frustration in his voice – that his phone calls to City Hall and BC Hydro aren’t being returned. “The Mayor, he loves our tacos. Maybe I have to go knock on his door? I don’t know.” As it stands today (when these pictures were taken), Romero and his partners don’t even have a clue as to when they’ll get their electrical insufficiency sorted, and while they’re grateful that they have an understanding landlord (they aren’t paying full rent at the moment), the cost is nevertheless crippling since there’s absolutely no revenue coming in.
So if any one of our readers has the ear of the right person at City Hall and/or BC Hydro, we kindly ask they they do every food lover on The Drive a solid by asking him/her to follow up for Romero et al. For reference, the would-be restaurant’s address is 1622 Commercial Drive, and the company is called La Taqueria. These guys are keen to get cooking (dinner only, until 1am), but since they can’t even flip a switch yet, opening day remains a total mystery.
Thankfully, they got the call the very next day and were able to open the restaurant without the long delay crippling them beyond recovery. Here’s a visual reminder of the state of the place back then…