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Cantina 1910, Andersonville's Ambitious Mexican Restaurant and Yelp Target, Shutters

Owners blame wage increases and mandatory sick days

Cantina 1910
Cantina 1910 is closed in Andersonville.
Marc Much
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Thrown off from the start by negative buzz from Andersonville neighbors who never took to the restaurant’s ambitious Mexican concept, Cantina 1910 closed for good on Sunday. A lightning rod since opening in September 2015, and snarled since May 2014 (when the project was known as Cantina De La Granja) while crews finished construction on an extravagant two-floor build-out, ownership blamed laws that would require mandatory sick leave and wage increase for employees, as well as a national shortage of culinary workers.

"We are unable to further raise prices in this competitive restaurant market in order to sustain the labor costs necessary to operate Cantina 1910," ownership wrote in a statement. Read it in full below.

Andersonville is a unique community that doesn’t always embrace culinary gambles, and many took to Yelp to complain about opening chef Diana Davila’s menu, portions and prices. While some of the critiques had merit, some also bordered on silly, such as questioning why the restaurant’s drink list lacked a margarita.

The restaurant made adjustments, including adding a margarita to the cocktail list. Davila also ended up leaving the restaurant after three months, but Cantina 1910 rebounded by hiring chef Scott Shulman and his work garnered positive reviews as recent as earlier this month.

Michael Roper, owner of Andersonville stalwart Hopleaf, shared his views via Facebook. The bar/restaurant owner called the build-out at Cantina 1910 one of the most "extravagant" the neighborhood’s ever seen. He’s worried the space will remain vacant for a while because it will be difficult to find a tenant to occupy a space that large and unique.

"While they may have had other issues that may have doomed them, the fact is that our neighborhood and Chicago at large is ‘over-restauranted,’" Roper wrote. "The population of Chicago is not growing. People who live here are not making more money. People can only eat out so often. However, we are in the midst of a restaurant and bar opening binge."

Meanwhile, here’s the full statement attributed to owners Mark Robertson and Mike Sullivan, who also own Crew and Sofo Tap:

"We want to thank everyone who has joined us at Cantina 1910 over the past year. Like any restaurant, we’ve had our ups and downs, but through it all our team has remained fully committed to serving sustainable, local ingredients through modern culinary techniques. It is with heavy hearts that we announce the closing of Cantina 1910 and Café 1910 effective immediately. Despite this decision, we are extremely proud of the culinary experience we were able to deliver to those who dined with us and express our sincerest gratitude to Executive Chef Scott Shulman and Executive Pastry Chef Andrew Pingul and their teams for their tireless dedication to our mission.Unfortunately the rapidly changing labor market for the hospitality industry has resulted in immediate, substantial increases in payroll expenses that we could not absorb through price increases. In the last two years, we have seen a 27% increase in the base minimum wage, a 60% increase in kitchen wages, and a national shortage of skilled culinary workers. As we look down the road, we are facing a December 1 change in federal labor regulations that will nearly double required salaries for managers to qualify as exempt, a 2017 mandatory sick leave requirement and another minimum wage increase. Coupled with increasing Chicago and Cook County taxes and fees that disproportionately impact commercial properties and businesses, we are operating in an environment in which we do not see a path forward. We are unable to further raise prices in this competitive restaurant market in order to sustain the labor costs necessary to operate Cantina 1910. Thank you again to all who supported us this past year."

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