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Despite pandemic, Mariachi’s shares the love

When thinking of what Valentine’s dinner to choose today or if supporting local is on your mind, Mariachi’s authentic Mexican cuisine in Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a makes it easy to decide with their takeout or dine-in specials.

Mariachi’s Executive Manager Devin Portillo, son of owner Hector Portillo, said his father has run the two restaurants since 2007, and has experienced some struggles since the pandemic began.

“Well, people are just hesitant to go out regardless of the guidelines,” Portillo said. “Just people walking in the doors is very limited right now. With the guidelines our open-air is actually nice. Very few people feel comfortable with that.”

With less tourist coming to Kaua‘i, restaurants like Mariachi’s has seen a decrease in foot traffic.

“I would say less than 10 people a day,” Portillo said. “Some days we’re blessed with like a little rush, which can be anywhere from like five to 10 tables, and it seems nice, we’re kind of busy for a bit, and then, all of a sudden, there’s just nothing.”

Portillo and his team are prepared for residents at both restaurants for Valentine’s Day.

“Well, I mean, we have our nice outdoor seating, and we’re going to be doing steak and lobster special for anyone that does want to come in and try,” Portillo said. “They can definitely get that to go. You can call ahead. You can order through the Uber Eats app, too.”

Unlike other restaurants that have created new pandemic hours, Portillo said he kept their regular hours.

“Which is from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m,” Portillo said. “We just kind of schedule all of our workers spaced out. So it can seem shorthanded if it gets busy in the mornings because we want to be open. And it’s usually manageable with one worker, but then all of a sudden, we’ll be lucky to have a little rush and then, you know, it seems it seems busy, but I mean, better than not being open and not being there to serve anyone.”

Portillo also had to say goodbye to a few employees during the pandemic.

“Definitely a lot of people move to different places,” Portillo said. They didn’t even stay on the island because it’s too difficult, they’re not making as much so I didn’t need to let them go, they just left.”

Local residents have become their main source of income at Mariachi’s, which Portillo is grateful for. He said sometimes he gives his regular customers a free meal.

“Thank you guys so much, we appreciate all the help,” Portillo said. “We would like any opportunity to give back to the community to, you know. We want to also not just us have customers, but we want to be thankful and give back in any way possible. We’re gonna continue to try to be thankful by giving great service and good food.”

Portillo appreciates the aloha spirit found on Kaua‘i.

“Hopefully all the other businesses can work together to share all of the few customers we have right now,” Portillo said. “Because it’s not really everyone for themselves. We have to like work together to support each other.”

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Source: The Garden Island

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