For two and a half years construction along Shepherd blocked the driveway of Tila's Restaurante and Bar. Forty foot-deep wells were dug in the eatery's parking lot. Dust and sand destroyed the building's air conditioning vents. People stopped driving on Shepherd altogether. All of which, restaurateur Tila Hidalgo tells the Houston Press, eventually did in her 20-year-old Mexican eatery at 1111 S. Shepherd in River Oaks. As Swamplot first reported, Tila's closed up shop on August 13 and will move out by end of August.
"It's devastating," Hidalgo said. "Stress galore. The city took their time. They closed lanes. It went down to one lane. People still don't take Shepherd." It's a sentiment shared by at least one fellow restaurateur who also closed a restaurant on Shepherd in Montrose this year, Ryan Hildebrand of Triniti. He told the Press back in May, "We got hit hard by that road construction on Shepherd. It was bad. Once you’re off people’s radar, that’s it." Hidalgo definitely agrees, although Tila's neighbor Backstreet Cafe, seems to be doing okay.
That being said, when the road construction was finally over, Hidalgo claims that Tila's had lost an estimated 30 percent of her business and on top of that, her landlord, local real estate mogul Ed Wulfe, raised the rent. "$12,000 a month for a 1,500-foot building? It's just not possible."
Hidalgo tells the Press that she was allowed to stay on as a tenant because Wulfe couldn't find a new business to replace her very quickly, but for the past several months, a For Lease sign was placed in her business's window and realtors were actively showing the space, with numerous people coming through to check out the digs during her business hours and most of her workers moving on to new jobs. She was recently given 25 days to vacate the building.
"Things change. Times change," she said. "It's sad, but we'll move on."
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So what's next for Tila's?
"I'm looking at a space in Sawyer Yards, where all those art studios are," Hidalgo says. Her plan is to use the space as a commissary to operate her popular food truck business, Tila's Tacos, known for its clean and lean Mexican fare as usual, serving as she does at all the athletic functions at the University of Houston, area food festivals and private events around town, and "Then we're going to make a little space in it for a cantina and taqueria." Hildalgo's husband, Sergio, is the chef of the restaurant, so obviously he's still on board with the plans.
The location she's eyeing, and could potentially have leased by September if all goes as planned, is the Meek Studio, where glass blower Jim Meek inhabits one half of the warehouse.
As for the space at 1111 Shepherd a new tenant is apparently on the way. The Press has reached out to Wulfe & Co. and Emil Wulfe did confirm that the space has been leased but declined to release information about the new tenant at this time.