Taco Punk is closing … again. This time, it sounds like it’s for real.
Gabe Sowder and his crew, who’ve been with him through thick and thin during three years, have posted the restaurant will close Friday, Oct. 3.
In a note on the Taco Punk Facebook page, which is reposted below in its entirety, Sowder attributes the closing to the increasing traffic problems due to construction of the downtown bridge, a situation that he quotes local officials as saying will only get worse until construction is complete in 2016.
This is not the first time owner/chef Sowder went public with his restaurant issues. And in his post, he acknowledges NuLu “has been a bit of a struggle from the beginning.”
(Full disclosure: I have loved Taco Punk from the beginning … to the point my wife laid down the law and told me I couldn’t eat there every day because it was killing our finances.)
Sowder had lease complications as he was opening Taco Punk in late 2011, delays that pushed the debut of the Mexican-inspired hangout into early 2012. Then, in June 2012, Rae Hodge, then editor of the Cardinal student newspaper at the University of Louisville, ripped into Taco Punk, holding the gourmet taco concept up as a symbol of everything “bad” about NuLu. As envisioned by Gill Holland and his investors, East Market Street was at the time transforming from Skid Row to Ground Zero for Louisville’s arts, business, retail and restaurant resurgence … and generating glowing national headlines. (Note: Hodge has penned several news stories for IL.)
From Hodge’s post for The Cardinal:
Taco Punk is par for course in the forced meme that is NuLu. It is stocked with polo-shirt baby boomers who can afford to be trendy, and young professionals from nearby hotels who fawn over an indulgent amount of kitsch. I kid you not, as I ate, a Porsche Carrera was parked out front.
IL gave Sowder space for a rebuttal, which got more than 10,000 reads in a couple of days and was shared hundreds of times on Facebook.
As more and more of those Porsche-driving yuppies crammed into the neighborhood each week, more and more restaurants opened … which had an impact on Taco Punk. By January 2013, Sowder was back in the news, and not in a good way.
Sowder had started a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign, trying to recoup losses after forecast revenue from downtown didn’t pan out. “Simply put, this shortfall in convention, arena, and event business has left us unable to keep operating without some help: your help,” he stated in the campaign.
Reaction was swift.
Former Eater.com Louisville editor Zach Everson went after Sowder, excoriating him for asking for donations so Taco Punk “can keep selling $10 Taco Platters.” The campaign failed after only meeting half its goal.
As of NuLu Fest last year, Taco Punk’s crowds started picking up dramatically, and we thought Sowder was in the clear. So the closing comes as a shock.
To his defense, the quality-obsessed Sowder chose to offer only high-end, gourmet ingredients such as giant shrimp, grass-raised beef, Amish-raised chicken and house-made moles.
He also took pride in paying his people sufficiently well so that a tip jar wasn’t necessary.
More when IL gets a chance to interview Sowder.
Until then, here’s his Facebook post in its entirety:
Unfortunately, the time has come for Taco Punk to unplug the old tortilla press.
For almost three years we have been making some of the best tacos in town. Our NuLu location has been a bit of a struggle from the beginning. We chose to make the best of it in a beautiful location; expanding our menu, hosting events, offering catering and vending at events all the while offering fantastic food focused on quality, ethical responsibility and great service. Over this time we have shown thousands of people that locally sourced food can be affordable, responsible and quickly delicious.
However, our location is heavily dependent on the success of our lunch business and traffic issues with the Downtown Bridge Project have decisively cut off easy access for downtown workers to NuLu during the crucial lunch hours. After conferring with officials at Walsh construction, the Economic Development Council, Downtown Management and the team behind AC Hotel Nulu, it is clear that the situation in NuLu is only going to get worse before it gets better and any relief will come at mid 2016 –at best.
While we still retain the spirit and will to continue on, we no longer have the financial ability to do so. Rather than sacrifice quality, service and our sustainability program, we have chosen to go out on top with our integrity intact. Join us for the next two weeks for a celebration of Taco Punk. We will be open from now until our last service on the October 3 Trolley Hop, and vending during NuLufest September 27 .
A big thank you goes out to all of our great customers, vendors and supporters. We will miss making you happy and full. Hope to see you soon for one last trip to Taco Punk!
Gabe and the Taco Punk Crew