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COVID isn't the reason 911 Tacos on Main Street is closing. But it was the last straw.

COVID isn't the reason 911 Tacos on Main Street is closing. But it was the last straw.

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911 Tacos closed

911 Tacos, 817 Main St., has permanently closed, its owners confirmed Tuesday. But, the tacos will still be served out of the 911 Tacos Food Truck, which is already operational in Kenosha County and is planned to start serving Racine County soon.

RACINE — “And then COVID hit.”

Alicia Sauceda, who has co-owned 911 Tacos since 2016 with her husband, Nino, said that sentence several times during a phone call with The Journal Times Tuesday evening, an hour after they announced via Facebook that they would be closing their Tex-Mex restaurant at 817 Main St. for good.

But the Saucedas promised their tacos wouldn’t be leaving Racine. This week, they submitted their application to operate as a food truck in Racine.

“Today was a bittersweet moment,” Alicia said. “We are still here.”

The Saucedas had been thinking about closing the restaurant for a few months before Tuesday’s announcement. The decision to close permanently was only “partially because of COVID,” Nino said.

In November, their 911 Tacos food truck was delivered. In January, it was licensed to start serving in Kenosha County. Soon, the truck became just as profitable (if not more profitable) than the brick-and-mortar restaurant. And that was before the pandemic reached Wisconsin.

Restaurants in Wisconsin were forced to close on March 17, the last day anyone will have ever dined in at 911 Tacos on Main Street.

The final two months

When the restaurant was forced to shut down except for carryout, the Saucedas kept all of their staff on payroll.

“It was their sole income,” Alicia said.

But revenue from takeout orders rarely covered half of the operating expenses. They were forced to cut hours for employees, many of whom decided to look for other work.

The restaurant was closed off-and-on for days at a time because staffing was so low throughout the crisis. The Saucedas requested a small business relief loan but didn’t get it.

One of the Saucedas’ sons — Jose, an electrician in Illinois — moved back home for the time being to help with the restaurant so his dad could focus on the food truck. Some days since the pandemic began, the food truck — usually parked outside either Steinhafels (7001 120th Ave.) or Big Hit Barber Shop (6011 39th Ave.) in Kenosha — got so busy they just closed the restaurant so Juan would be able to go help on the truck.

“It was hand over foot at the food truck,” Alicia said. “The food truck was carrying the load of the restaurant.”

The thought of closing the restaurant had been on their minds since the truck arrived in November.

“We were thinking about it before. And then COVID hit,” Alicia said.

They knew the food truck offered more freedom and was cheaper to operate: you don’t have to pay rent for a truck, and the Saucedas can run it as a family without any additional staff.

“What am I holding onto it for if it’s not making us any money?” Alicia thought to herself. “It’s just him and I on the food truck. And our two boys help out … It just seemed easier and made more sense.”

One of the final nails in the coffin was when the Saucedas’ certified public accountant said “That’s not a bad idea” to close the restaurant permanently.

“We were thinking about it (closing the restaurant) before,” Alicia said. “And then COVID hit.”

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