The operators of a Mexican restaurant severely damaged in a large fire said Monday they are hopeful they can reopen at the same northeast Minneapolis location.
“Hola, Amigos,” began a Facebook post from El Taco Riendo. “We are going through a very sad situation now. Our loving Taco Riendo has been burned down.”
Shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday, flames and smoke engulfed numerous buildings along the 2400 block of NE. Central Avenue and has forced several residents to leave their apartments on the floor above.
The fire charred other businesses on both sides of El Taco Riendo as well as a handful of apartments one floor above, according to the Fire Department. No injuries were reported.
The circumstances about how the blaze started have yet to be disclosed, but fire officials believe it began in one of the apartments.
City Council Member Kevin Reich, who visited the fiery and smoky scene in his ward, said Monday that northeast has “suffered a devastating loss” with the destruction of three buildings and the forced evacuation of several residents.
“The fire has left a gaping hole in the heart of our community and the iconic fabric of our ‘Main Street,’ ” Reich said in a statement. “Many have lost their homes. Independent family business owners have lost their livelihood.”
Reich said the fire and its consequences “could not have come at a worse time, as we all struggle to deal with the impacts of our current COVID-19 crisis.”
“That people should be made homeless at a time when we are all turning to home for safety and sanctuary, and that some of our most beloved small local businesses should be destroyed at a time when every small business is being tested to the limits, is almost unthinkable.”
As of Monday morning, Reich said, the building facades are standing and stabilization work is underway, including necessary utility work and building board-ups to ensure site safety.
In the meantime, El Taco Riendo said on Facebook that its sister dining spot in Crystal is welcoming patrons and said “thank you all for all this 11 years of business we [have] been in northeast Minneapolis.”
The note said the business wants to reopen at that location, but “we have to wait for the authorities to know what is the situation.”
The restaurant has started a GoFundMe campaign online in an effort to continue paying its more than 20 employees for the next month.
The other businesses affected, according to the Fire Department, were a coffee shop and a bakery, as well as the offices for the National Association of Letter Carriers. Fire officials said Sunday night that they didn’t believe any of the buildings affected were occupied at the time.
The Minnesota region of the Red Cross said it is helping five apartment residents, all adults, with temporary housing, food, clothing and other necessities.
Carrie Carlson-Guest, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said that the residents were questioned about the coronavirus outbreak, and after agency representatives were confident that none of them was infected, “we were able to meet with those who were affected using social distances practices.”
Another Red Cross spokeswoman, Tara Niebeling, said the mental and emotional needs of the affected residents “are more important than ever … during these unprecedented times.”
“I can’t imagine what these people are going through,” Niebeling said.
Also, Niebeling said, if any resident affected by the fire has yet to make contact with the Red Cross, “they can still come to us for assistance.”